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Full text of "Lucy Aylmer"

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L I E) R.AR.Y 

OF THE 

UN IVLR.5ITY 

Of ILLI NOIS 



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LUCY AYLMBR. 



VOL. I. 



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LUCY AYLMER. 



CHAPTER I. 

Of coats and of jackets grej, scarlet and green, 
On the slopes of the pastures all colours were seen ; 
Now fast up the hill came the noise and the fray, 
The horses and horns, and then hark ! hark-away ! 

WORDSWORTH. 

V The distant barking of dogs, and the cheer- 

' fill sound of the huntsman's horn were wafted 

3 across the clear autumn air into the open 

3 windows of a low, old-fashioned drawing-room. 

^ A handsome, bright-looking girl who was read- 

^ ing aloud, hastily threw her book on the table, 

^ and snatching away her sister's work, sent 

,^ it flying across the room ; and then breaking 

::2^ out into a merry laugh, exclaimed. 

" There now, Lucy, there is an end of our 

VOL. I. B 



5i LUCY AYLMER. 

industrious fit, for not one word more will I 
read to-day ! Ob, that horn ! how I wish I 
were hunting, too ! let us go out into the gar- 
den — perhaps, we shall see them pass across 
the glen ; come, Lucy, come." 

But Lucy was evidently of a neat tempera- 
ment, for she first picked up her work, and 
folding it up carefully, replaced it in her 
basket, and when she had put a mark in the 
book, she followed her sister out into the hall. 
It was a curious old place ; a great table stood 
in the centre, strewn and littered over with 
buckskin gloves, riding, driving whips, sport- 
ing calendars, books on angling, gardening, 
and divers other country amusements, inter- 
mingled with hats of every description, white 
hats with long nap, high-cro\^Tied wide-awakes, 
and wide-awakes with the crown smashed in ; 
sticks with handles cut in various quaint de- 
vices, some with grim dogs' and foxes' heads, 
seeming copies of those which garnished the 
walls, for what with antlers, and stags' heads, 
foxes' heads, and guns, together with a few 
old pictures, blackened by dust and age, the 
\jolour of the old oak wainscoting could 
scarcely be discerned. Half-a-dozen high- 



LUCY AYLMER. 3 

backed chairs with odd carvings and moth- 
eaten velvet seats completed the hall furniture. 
Close by the garden door slumbered a vene- 
rable, toothless hound, whose days of glory in 
the chase had long passed away, and on a 
warm spot where the sunbeams rested, two 
little pointer puppies, with long flapping ears, 
and queer, mischievous looking faces, lay close 
to each other, winking and blinking their 
bright eyes ; but the instant the two girls 
came across the hall, they darted up and com- 
menced attacking their feet and the hems of 
their dresses. 

" Oh, Maude, here are our little tormentors 
again !" exclaimed Lucy, " leave off, there's 
good doggies !" but Maude, snatching up one 
of the puppies, placed it on the table, and 
commenced teaching it all sorts of antics to 
the great amusement of Lucy, who laughed 
till the tears ran down her cheeks. Presently 
Maude put the little dog doT\m again, and 
taking up a large straw hat, danced out into 
the garden, followed by Lucy, who shut the 
door in the face of the astonished puppies, 
who whined, and sniffed, and tried to poke 
their noses under the door, but failing in the 

B 2 



4 LUCY AYLMER. 

attempt, thought proper to resume their old 
position in the sunbeams, and continue their 
doze. 

" Which way shall we go, Maude, dear ?" 
asked Lucy, as her sister twined her arm 
round her waist. 

"Oh I doAvn to the summer-house, to be 
sure, there is nothing to be seen in the gar- 
den ! come along, Lucy, ' sweet Lucy Neal' !" 

" Wait a moment, Maude, I must just tie 
my hat-strings ; there now, I'm ready." 

" Then let us have a polka !" and Maude, 
again putting her arm round the slender w^aist 
of her sister, whirled her down to the bottom 
of a wide, ill-kept lawn ; there they stopped 
breathless, and threw themselves into a low 
garden seat. 

'' What fun !" exclaimed Maude, as soon as 
she could speak, " are we not happy girls, you 
and I, Lu ? it is so nice to do as we hke, 
nobody to dictate, nobody to contradict us ! I 
am sure those grand Ladies Erresford cannot 
be half so happy as we !" 

" We cannot tell that, because we do not 
know them," replied Lucy. 

"And I am sure I do not want to know 



LUCY AYLMER. 



them," said Maude, pursing up her Up, " I 
never intend to let any one patronise me." 

" Why should you think the Ladies Erres- 
ford would patronise ?" asked Lucy. 

" I only fancy so because they are older 
than we, and imagine themselves mighty fine, 
I dare say." 

"Don't frovm so, Maude," said Lucy 
laughing, " we have no reason for supposing 
the Ladies Erresford will come here, so we 
shall not be troubled by their pride, that is 
to say, if they are proud." 

" Oh ! I don't know that," continued Maude, 
" Ralph told me this morning that Mr. Erres- 
ford is at Castle St. Agnes, I believe he 
arrived there yesterday." 

"Yes, papa heard last week that he was 
expected, I think he is going to arrange 
about a new clergyman." 

" I wish Mr. Eerrers had not died, I hate 
new people, particularly models, and they 
say ^Ir. Erresford is a model, and of course 
the clergyman he chooses will be something 
super-excellent. I am sure papa will not 
like him, if he does not hunt." 

" I have been thinking, Maude," and Lucv's 



6 LUCY AYLMER. 

fair face brightened as she spoke, "if Mr. 
Erresford were to choose Robert." 

"What a nice idea," exclaimed Maude, 
" but it is too good to be reahzed, if those 
De Waldens had wished to do any good, 
they might have given poor Lascelles Aylmer 
a Hving, I have no patience with some people !" 

Lucy laughed as she said, "w^hat is 
the matter with you this morning, you cer- 
tainly are in a fit of anger against poor Lady 
de Walden and the whole family." 

"Well, because I do not want them to 
come down here, bringing new ideas and new 
people into Forsted ; we get on well enough 
without them, I am sure." 

" But Mr. Erresford is the only person 
arrived at the Castle, and I dare say he will 
not interfere with us." 

"Perhaps he will call on papa, and then 
we shall see him, how cold I shall be !" 

" Perhaps, he will go to the hunt to-day," 
suggested Lucy. 

" Silly Lucy ! the idea of such a thing ! — - 
model Mr. Erresford hunt !" — but as Maude 
was speaking, the sounds that had first dis- 
turbed her, again sounded on the air ; bark- 



LUCY AYLMER. 7 

ings — yelpings — tally-lioes — the tearing of 
horses' hoofs on the sod, which while they list- 
ened came nearer, then across the lawn almost 
beneath their feet ran smft as Hghtning a 
frightened, panting hare, its beautiful melan- 
choly eyes looking straight before it, and its 
little feet scarcely touching the sod, with such 
rapidity did it pass. Maude held her breath 
with interest, but the tender-hearted Lucy, for 
an instant, closed her eyes, though the next 
moment she lifted up her head, for on, across 
the grounds in full chase, came the whole 
hunting party ; foremost — whoever knew the 
hunt where Squire Neville was not the first ? — 
was her father, his fine handsome, English face 
full of eager interest ; he did not even see his 
daughters who each ejaculated, " Papa is 
first !" — but the exclamation had scarcely 
passed their lips when on came a horse 
with splendid arched neck, slender legs and 
such a beautiful head ! — a perfect king of 
horses ! — and the rider who sat so lightly in 
the saddle, and turned round with a bow full 
of grace and elegance to the sisters, cer- 
tainly was strikingly handsome — an air noble 
— an expression at once arch and sweet — 



8 LUCY AYLMER. 

bright eyes and curling brown hair, made 
what connoisseurs in manly beauty would 
pronounce, a pre-eminently handsome man. 
But while Maude and Lucy were looking after 
him ; the stranger dashed by, and following 
him full tilt came squires, farmers, jockeys all 
pell mell, their horses covered with mud and 
foam. The last of the exciting group was 
watched out of sight with eager curiosity, and 
then Maude exclaimed : " How I wish I were 
with them — what glorious sport ! — but Lucy, 
child, did you remark that lovely horse and 
handsome rider, who could he be ?" 

" He bowed to us, perhaps it is Mr. 
Erresford," replied Lucy. 

" Oh, nonsense, Lucy ! Mr. Erresford must be 
older, perhaps it is Sir Joseph Eairfield's son." 

" Oh, no ! I saw him last Sunday, he is 
fair and has a stout face." 

" Yes, I recollect, an insipid creature, with 
nothing to say, is it Captain Prescott?" 

" No, Captain Prescott was behind, did 
not you see liim with large moustache ?" 

" No, I wonder how I missed him, I sup- 
pose my head was full of the handsome 
stranger." 



LUCY AYLMER. 9 

" If he turns out to be Mr. Erresford after 
all !" ventured Lucy, with a sly, timid glance 
at her sister. 

"Stuff!" exclaimed Maude impatiently, 
"you are quite infatuated about Mr. Erresford ! 
come along into the shrubbery and help me 
pick some filberts for dessert — here is a beau- 
tiful tree, just look at the nuts, I will hold 
down the boughs for you, can you reach them, 
darling ?" 

" Easily, Maude, but we have no basket to 
put them in." 

" Oh, make one of your apron, or, we can 
fill our pockets ; come Lucy, pick away." 
Lucy's fingers were tolerably nimble, and 
on the girls went from tree to tree, laughing 
and talking all the way till Lucy's apron 
strings fairlv broke beneath the weight of her 
burden. The girls, however, made very light 
of this little disaster, and it was only the 
w rk of a few minutes, to gather up the nuts 
and consign them again to the apron, which 
Maude knotted up at the corners and carried 
herself ; it was pretty to see how carefully she 
spared her sister any trouble, and what pains 
she took to pull down the boughs low enough 

B 3 



10 LUCY AYLMER. 

for Lucy to reach them without much exer- 
tion. When they had finished gathering the 
filberts, they went round the shrubbery and 
rested a moment in an old rustic arbour, 
which was on a gentle rise, and commanded 
a lovely view of the surrounding countr}% 
with the Norman turrets of Castle St. Agnes 
frowning in the distance from beneath a dark 
pine wood. 

*' Papa will not say we have forgotten 
him to-day," said Maude, patting the bundle 
in her lap. 

" But he will, Maude, dear, if we do not get 
any walnuts." 

" I do not know what would become of us 
without the help of your memory, Lucy," 
and up started Maude out of the shrubberies, 
across the lower edge of the lawn, and in at a 
little wicket gate to the kitchen garden ; it 
was a damp neglected looking place, sur- 
rounded by overhanging elders, and full of 
tall apple and pear trees, while the ground 
was strewn with potatoe haulm, an old man 
was raking together into little heaps to which 
he set fire, and the grey smoke curled thickly 
up towards the sky, tinged golden by an 



LUCY AYLMER. 11 

autumn sunset. In the midst of the potatoe 
bed was an immense walnut tree, and here 
the girls picked their way regardless of the 
damp earth which adhered in clods to their 
shoes. The old man touched his hat respect- 
fully as they passed. 

" There ba'ent none on the ground, ]\liss," 
he said, as Lucy stooped to pick up some 
shells, " them's only empty husks — may be 
you would like me to get the bludgeon and 
ladder ?" 

" If you please, Robbins," replied Lucy, 
in a kind tone, " we want walnuts for 
papa." 

She [stood with her hands folded, and 
watched the old man stumping ofP in quest 
of the " ladder and bludgeon," the latter was 
a great thick stick, kept for the express 
purpose of knocking down walnuts. Maude 
turned an old basket upside down, and sitting 
on it, leant her face on her hands, and watched 
the smoke ; she smiled as she did so, as if 
some droU recollections connected with those 
fires came into her mind. 

" Robbins !" she exclaimed, as the old man 
returned ladder in hand, " do you recollect 



12 LUCY AYLMER. 

the time when we used to roast potatoes in 
the couch fires ?" 

" Aye, aye, Miss, I remember," he repHed. 

" And have you forgotten the times when 
we used to make you get us clay for httle 
candlesticks ?" 

" No, no. Miss," and the old gardener 
placed the ladder firmly against the tree, 
shook it, placed his foot on the first round, and 
then when he had ascertained it would hold, 
he slowly mounted. '' Now, Miss Maude, 
please — Miss Lucy, mind," and to hear the 
way Robbins dashed right and left among 
the boughs, you would not have thought him 
the old, stooping man who had tended the 
fires a few minutes ago. Maude and Lucy 
perfectly shrieked with laughter, as the wal- 
nuts came down in showers, sometimes 
tumbling upon their heads, and sometimes in 
their out-stretched hands. At last the old 
man ceased his blows, and called to them from 
the tree, if they had enough. There were 
almost more on the ground than they could 
have patience to pick up, so they answered, 
"Plenty," and the old gardener slowly des- 
cended the ladder. He smiled benevolently 



LUCY AYLMER. 13 

on the girls, as he took off his almost napless 
hat, and wiped his forehead with the red 
handkerchief in it. " Don't crack the husks, 
Miss Lucy, they'll stain your pretty fingers 
like anything. I'll do it for 'ee, give 'em all 
to me, and I'll take off them 'ere husks in no 
time." He seated himself on Maude's up- 
turned basket, pulled out a great rough clasp- 
knife, and commenced removing the green 
outer coverings which he threw into the fire, 
and put the walnuts in an old game basket 
lying on the ground near. Lucy stood by 
and looked on in an attitude peculiarly her 
own ; her figure erect, but her head shghtly 
bent in a watchful way, and her hands 
crossed ; while Maude busied herself poking 
about the fire with a forked pea- stick. 

" Did you see the hunt to-day, Robbins ?" 
she asked, as she pushed a bundle of potatoe- 
stalks with her foot towards the fire. 

"Aye, Miss, I see'd it from up in the 
shrubberies." 

" Was therie not a number of them ?" con- 
tinued Maude. 

" Aye, Miss, there be plenty of folks most 
ways a hunting." 



14 LUCY AYLMER. 

" Papa was first," observed Maude, in a 
tone of pride. 

" I never see'd nor heer'd the time 
when master warn't first. Miss," he re- 
phed. 

" By-the-bye, Robbins," she exclaimed sud- 
denly, nearly putting out the fire in the 
energy vrith which she supplied it, " can you 
tell us who that gentleman on the fiery horse 
was, we want so much to know, the one next 
to papa, I mean." 

"Aye, Miss, him without a hunting coat." 

" Yes, who was he, Robbins ?" 

" Him was Mister Erresford," replied the 
old man quietly. 

Gentle Lucy did not triumph at her quick- 
ness in guessing, but Maude exclaimed in a 
tone of disappointment, "Then you were right, 
Lucy." 

" Him's a kind spoken gentleman," ob- 
served the old man. 

"How do you know, Robbins?" asked 
Maude, who had left the fire in peace at the 
important news. 

" 'Cans, Miss, he were at my httle place 
last night." 



LUCY AYLMER. 15 

" At your cottage ! what did he do there, 
Robbms ?" 

" He com'd to see me and my old 'oman, 
Miss." 

Maude had it on her hps to say, what 
business had he with papa's tenantry ? but 
she refrained, thinking it might hurt Robbins' 
feehngs. 

" You ban't heard p'raps of my Lady's 
HaU, in Essex ?" 

" No, Robbins, what about it ?" said Maude. 

" Why it's burnt t' ashes Miss, and the 
family's commg to Castle St. Agnes." 

" Not really ?" asked Maude, incredulously. 

" I had it from Mister Erresford his-self, 
said the old man rising, as he put the last nut 
into the basket. 

" Thank you, Robbins," said Lucy, who had 
been watching him earnestly. 

" No, Miss, I havn't done yet, this here is 
too heavy for you young ladies," and putting 
Maude's bundle in with the walnuts, he took 
up the basket, and walked towards the house. 
They all three went in at the back-door, and 
the old man put down the basket in the 
passage, and followed by the girls' thanks, to 



16 LUCY AYLMER. 

which he repKed, " Quite welcome young 
ladies," the old gardener went back to his fires 
with a smile over his honest face pleased to 
have been of use to the young sisters he had 
known from their infancy. Maude took up 
the basket, it was heavy, but she had a strong 
arm, and she carried it easily into the hall, 
there she left it, and they both went into the 
drawing-room to arrange it for the evening. 
The old hound was awake, raid giving a feeble 
trembling sort of bark he followed them in, 
and laid down under a sofa ; Ralph, the stable 
boy had fetched away the puppies. It was 
amusing to see how systematically the girls 
went to work, dusting the drawing-room, 
removing the faded chmtz covers from the 
furniture, putting the tables in convenient 
places, and drawing the sofas and easy chairs 
towards the fire, to which Maude put a match, 
and kneehng down blew the wood into a blaze, 
then pulling down the blinds for it was nearly 
dusk, and taking away their work-boxes, they 
went up the wide staircase. The first door 
on the broad landing Maude opened, it led into 
a large airy room, there had been a brilliant sun- 
set, which had left the sky tinged with red and 



LUCY AYLMER. 17 

gold, and tlie windows opening to the west, 
the room was light, besides there was a bright 
fire burning. Maude set down the great 
basket which she had brought up with her, 
and stirred the fire into a blaze. 

" How comfortable it looks, Lucy," said 
Maude, and she was right, for there was an air 
of snugness about the room. At the farther 
end was an old cabinet, the furniture was 
green damask, and the three old-fashioned 
windows had curtains to correspond ; near the 
fire stood a sofa, and a very quaint looking 
easy chair, a large round table covered with 
books and work with a vase of flowers in the 
centre — it was a very handsome vase of 
Bohemian glass and frosted silver, and rather 
out of keeping with the rest of the room. 
The books were of a miscellaneous character, 
a volume of Shakespeare, Racine, Phedre, the 
Fairchild Family, Robinson Crusoe, Pil- 
grim's Progress, and Goldsmith's History of 
England were piled one on the other. Maude 
pushed them aside and tumbled out the 
walnuts: "You have forgotten the plates," 
said Lucy ; off" ran the unwearied Maude, 
invading the butler's pantry she retmiied with 



18 LUCY AYLMER. 

some fruit dishes and commenced shelling the 
filberts into them.- The two sisters looked 
very happy sitting on the floor by the fire, the 
glow of the setting sun shining on them 
through the window. 

" Papa is late this evening," said Lucy. 

" No, dear, he is not," and Maude pulled out 
a large, old-fashioned watch ; " it is only six." 

" Oh ! yes, the stable clock is just striking. 
Papa will not be long now." 

"Lucy," Maude exclaimed, "only fancy 
that being Mr. Erresford 1" 

" Yes, and how handsome he looked !" 

" Well, rather afl'ected," replied Maude, " I 
wonder if he dines here to-night; papa told 
Morris he should bring home six gentlemen." 

" Sir Joseph Pairfield and his son, Captain 
Prescott, Mr. Mildmay, and Mr. Harper, then 
the sixth must be Mr. Erresford, for the rest 
were farmers," said Lucy. 

"How quick you are," replied Maude, 
"yes, he must be coming, how glad I am 
we shall not see him !" 

" Papa says when we are older we must 
come down to his dinners," said Lucy, in 
rather a triste tone. 



LUCY ATLMER. 19 

" I shall like it/' said Maude, " only heading 
the table will be rather awful at first." 

" Oh ! I shall be so frightened," added the 
timid Lucy, already shrinking in anticipation 
of what was to come. 

" Nonsense, dear, you will soon get over 
your fear of strangers — I suppose," Maude 
continued, changing her tone, " we shall see 
enouofh of strans-ers when Ladv de Walden 
and train arrive, all the peace of our dear little 
village ^\^S\. be gone then !" 

" Oh ! there is papa," Lucy exclaimed joy- 
ously, as horses' feet struck against the gravel 
path ; the girls started up and went to the 
window, and ensconcing themselves behind 
the curtains, w^atched the party as they rode 
up ; they counted seven horsemen, and the 
last, they were convinced, was Mr. Erres- 
ford. 

Loud laughs rang in the hall, heavy steps 
sounded on the floors, doors opened and then 
hastily closed, horses wxre led away to the 
stables, and then a well known tread mounted 
the stairs, and in another minute Squire 
Neville w^as in his children's room. The joy 
and alacrity Avith which they sprang forward 



20 LUCY AYLMER. 

to receive liis embrace, showed how much they 
loved hhn. 

"Was it good sport, papa, dear?" asked 
Maude, as she raised her beautiful face to his, 
but a look of dissatisfaction was on his coun- 
tenance. 

" Your father has been beaten at last, 
Maude," and his voice wanted its usual hearti- 
ness of tone. 

" Beaten, papa !" Maude exclaimed, while 
her lip curled and the colour mounted to her 
high, fair forehead. 

" Yes, beaten," he replied, " I should not 
care if it had been by one of my old compa- 
nions, but a young jackanapes of a fellow from 
London !" 

"Not Mr. Erresford?" exclaimed Maude, 
" how I do hate him !" 

"Tut, tut," said the Squire, quickly 
recovering his good humour, " one can't ex- 
pect to be foremost in every run — there, Lucy, 
m:y jewel, don't screw that little mouth so 
solemnly. I'll ride a swifter horse at the first 
fox-hunt, and bring my Lucy the brush after 
all, or my name is not Phil Neville 1" 

Lucy sidled up close to her father, and 



LUCY AYLMER. 21 

laid her little hand gently in his great broad 
palm, he took it up and kissed the tips of her 
slender fingers, while he twined his right arm 
round her waist, and drew her nearer to him, 
so that her head rested against his scarlet 
hunting coat. "And what has my darling 
been doing vnih herself all day ?" he asked. 

" Oh, papa ! we have been very happy,'' 
she repHed. 

*' That's right, my child, so long as you are 
happy, it's all right !" he gently unloosed his 
hold of her waist, and gave her a warm fond 
embrace. *' Now, Maude, my beauty, kiss me, 
I must go." Maude flew towards him, for 
one minute he had an arm round each, then 
he wished them good-night, and was gone. 

Maude stood for an instant, and watched the 
door through which he had passed ; but 
Lucy sat doAATi again on the floor and went 
on shelling the filberts by the fire-light in 
silence, till presently she turned round and 
called, " Maude, dear !" Her sister started 
from her reverie, and was instantly by her 
side. 

" Morris will not be verv" well pleased, if we 
are not quicker with his dessert," said Lucy. 



22 LUCY AYLMER. 

" We began too late," Maude replied in an 
absent tone, " Lu, dear, you will hurt your 
fingers." 

" Oh, no, I shall not ; just look at our 
pile." 

" Have we not almost enough ?" said 
Maude, " but what could have made Papa 
invite Mr. Erresford ?" 

" Oh, Maude, it would not be etiquette to 
leave out a companion in the hunting field, 
particularly a stranger, besides as he was 
foremost, it would seem like jealousy." 

" How you do think of everything," said 
Maude, laughing; "but I am thoroughly 
vexed, it was so impudent of Mr. Erresford to 
outdo Papa." 

" I imagine he could not help it with 
that horse," observed Lucy, " it seemed to 
fly, not run." 

" What excuses you make for him," said 
Maude, looking round in surprise. 

"I think we ought to like him, because 
he has been so kind to Robert," replied Lucy 
timidly. 

" Great people love to patronise," was 
Maude's answer. 



LUCY AYLMER. 23 

Lucy went on shelling her nuts in silence, 
for some minutes, and then she said quietly, 
" But Mr. Erresford's has been something 
more than patronage, you should hear Robert 
speak of him." 

*' Poor Robert is obliged to give him a httle 
flatter}^" replied Maude. 

" I do not think that is kind to Robert," 
said Lucy looking up. 

" Well, of course, I did not mean to make 
Robert out a hj-pocrite, for I know Mr. 
Erresford is his devoted friend, and a model 
of every manly virtue ; but though he is 
sincere, he may be a little bhnded — there 
now, Lucy, we have shelled enough nuts for a 
regiment. 1 will run down and place the 
dishes on the hall table." As she was 
descending the stairs, she heard a burst of 
voices proceeding from the dining-room, she 
paused a moment to try and distinguish that 
of the stranger. 

" A better fellow than old Eerrers never 
lived," was Sir Joseph Eairfield's remark, " a 
toast to his memory." 

" And one to his successor," rejoined the 
clear, manly voice of Erresford. 



24 LUCY AYLMER. 

" I am afraid his successor is rather a milk- 
sop," observed Captain Prescott. 

" No, no, I'll speak a word for Aylmer even 
in opposition to you, Captain/' said the Squire. 

Maude listened no longer, but putting down 
the dishes on the slab wdth rather a crash, ran 
up stairs to impart to her sister the good news 
that their early friend and companion, Robert 
Aylmer was to be vicar of Worsted St. Agnes. 



LUCY AYLMER. 25 



CHAPTER 11. 

It is not thy beauty 

Nor glorious grace. 
Oh no ! it's the feeling 

That dwells in thy face 
That illumines each feature 

As the sun doth the flower, 
And makes us feel spell-bound. 

To thee in thy power. 

JTJLIA TILT. 

A^D what was Forsted St. Agnes?— Why 
a Httle rustic village in Somersetshire contain- 
ing some two or three dozen thatched cottages, 
a few farms, a tiny little church much the 
worse for wear both inside and out, a little 
parsonage, very low, long, and nearly hidden 
by ivy and the trees which grew around it. 
Such was the village, but the parish took 

VOL. 1. c 



26 LUCY AYLMER. 

under its wing, the crazy old Manor House on 
one side, and the grand princely looking castle 
on the other, with their respective lands and 
woods. There was not a more sequestered 
spot, nor a more ignorant rustic population 
to be found in any part of England. The 
nearest railway was twenty miles off, so 
strangers did not trouble themselves with 
visiting Worsted, though the church looked 
inviting to wandering tourists in search of 
the antique : few of the inhabitants had ever 
seen the metropohs, and the Squire, whenever he 
returned from his occasional visits, said, he 
was heartily glad to find himself at home 
again. A plain, country Squire was Mr. 
Neville, with a pleasant easy address, a hand- 
some face and a good line of ancestors to look 
back to, but without one spark of the fine 
gentleman about him; he was thoroughly 
old fashioned, hated change with an honest, 
cordial hatred — perhaps that was the reason 
that the Manor House looked so neglected and 
ruinous ? — but no, it was not, for though he in- 
herited a tolerable property, the Squire usually 
ran short of money, thorough-bred hunters and 
card parties left nothing to spare from his in- 



LUCY AYLMER. 27 

come for alterations, or even for necessary re- 
pairs. There were three requisites in his house, 
the Squire always must have — good wine, a 
good cuisine and an experienced butler, as to 
the rest, so long as his children were happy, he 
professed not to care. And the children were 
perfectly happy if he was, though Maude could 
have spent, without extravagance, in one day 
the whole week's allowance her father gave 
her for the household, and it needed all the 
careful Lucy's repairing and mending to keep 
the requirements of their wardrobe within the 
scanty sum she received half-yearly ; but an 
old dress, or a little extra dusting, for they 
only kept one housemaid, an awkward village 
girl, did not distress the light-hearted sisters, 
for Maude and Lucy were early accustomed 
to a life of independence. Mrs. Neville died 
when Lucy was still an infant, and their child- 
hood was passed under the care of an old 
nurse, a dependant of the family ; as they grew 
older, Mr. Neville's friends recommended him 
to send them to school, but he was too much 
attached to his children to part from them, 
and after some hesitation he, at last, engaged a 
governess from Arminster, the nearest large 

c 2 



28 LUCY ATLMER. 

town, who remained with them until Maude 
completed her sixteenth year, then the Squire 
considered their education finished: besides 
losses on the turf caused him to lessen his 
expenses. Maude, who always disliked the 
restraint imposed on her by study, was only 
too glad to become her own mistress, and as 
to quiet Lucy, she could read and practise 
quite as well alone, so, on the whole, they were 
both satisfied in parting with their governess, 
and the Squire was not only satisfied, but 
pleased, for he had his girls all to himself, and 
as he said, " it saved his pocket." 

Maude and Lucy were truly children of the 
country, God's earth in all its perfections 
afforded them a never ending source of amuse- 
ment and gratification. There was not a rural 
spot in the whole neighbourhood unknown to, 
or unexplored by the sisters, their nimble feet 
had pressed each blade of grass, and crossed 
each rippling stream, jumping with delight 
from stone to stone, and dipping their feet 
in the flowing water, and often in earher 
days in the overhanging boughs of some forest 
oak, might be seen the handsome joyous face 
of Maude peeping out from among the leaves, 



LUCr AYLMER. 29 

inviting the more timid Lucy to ascend, and 
share the dehghts of her shady bower. But 
now they had given up chmbing and their 
wilder amusements, for Maude was seventeen 
and Lucy a year younger — pretty, fair Lucy ! 
with her soft, pensive blue eyes and light, 
almost flaxen hair, braided dov^ia a face so 
calm and gentle in its expression as instantly 
to bring to mind the third beatitude — ^how her 
father loved her ! She was the living image of 
his dead wife, the Lucy whom he had adored. 

Things were much more prosperous in her 
days, the house and grounds were a pattern of 
neatness and comfort under Mrs. Neville's 
superintendence, and there was plenty to keep 
them up, for though the Squire had always 
been a sportsman, yet it was only since his 
wife's death, that he had taken to betting and 
horse-racing. 

He venerated his wife's memory, which 
veneration he showed by resisting all efforts 
from the neighbouring Squirearchy to obtain 
the handsome widower for their daughters 
and sisters — no, the little time he spent at 
home, was devoted to his children ; they were 
both very dear to him, but Lucy was his 



30 LUCY AYLMER. 

favourite, and strange to say, Maude was not 
jealous — on the contrary, she quite agreed 
with her father in idoHzing and trying to spoil 
retiring, shy little Lucy. Maude was an entire 
contrast to Lucy, wild, impetuous, in all the 
pride of conscious beauty, hers was a face pos- 
sessing features classical in their outline, a 
complexion that might rival the summer rose, 
and a pair of the most enchanting dark eyes 
that ever belonged to maiden of seven- 
teen ! 

Such were the two girls who entered the 
little church of Forsted the Sunday after the 
hunt, and went down the damp stone aisle 
among the old white-painted pews, to one a 
little larger than the rest, in a recess to the 
right of the chancel, which held the font and 
the musicians, consisting of two old men who 
performed on the fiddle and bassoon. 

There was one little gallery over the arched 
door-way, with worn crimson fittings and the 
De Walden arms on the panelling, this was 
the Castle pew, deserted by its noble owners, 
for many, many years ; but this Sunday, as 
Maude looked round the church, her eyes 
lighted on the handsome stranger of the hunt, 



LUCY AYLMEE-. 31 

Mr. Erresford. Lucy was occupied in finding 
out the places in their prayer-books, an office 
she always performed, when Maude gave the 
corner of her cloak a pull, exclaiming in a 
loud whisper, as her sister looked up : 

"There he is, Lucy." 

"Who, dear?" 

" Mr. Erresford, to be sure !" 

" Hush, Maude, don't speak so loud, every 
one will hear you !" 

Mr. Erresford did not hear her, but he hap- 
pened to look down into the Squire's pew at 
that moment ; Lucy's eyes had returned to 
her prayer-book, but Maude's were directed to- 
wards the gallery — they were cast down, 
however, in some confusion and vexation at 
having flattered Mr. Erresford by even ap- 
pearing to look at him, and during the service, 
which was performed by a curate from a 
neighbouring village, Maude, who was rather 
famed for restlessness, was uncommonly at- 
tentive and quiet. The Squire, who had tired 
himself out by his last night's revelry, re- 
mained at home, so the girls were alone ; and 
Maude, who dreaded meeting Mr. Erresford, 
made Lucy hurry out of church as soon as 



32 LUCY AYLMER. 

possible, when the rustic little congregation 
began to disperse; it seemed, however, they 
were not to escape from Mr. Erresford, for 
just outside the porch, an old woman stopped 
them with the story of her troubles, after they 
had patiently listened to her, and were hasten- 
ing out of the church-yard, a few paces on, they 
saw Mr. Erresford talking with a little knot of 
villagers, he was directly in the path they had 
to pass, so there was no avoiding him. 

The villagers all raised their hats to "our 
young ladies," as the girls were familiarly 
called, Maude acknowledged Mr. Erresford's 
polite bow by a stiff inclination of the head, 
Lucy gave a more courteous recognition, and 
so they passed on. 

" I really thought he was going to speak to 
us," said Maude, when they were out of 
hearing. 

"Oh, no!" replied Lucy, "Mr. Erresford 
could not have introduced himself to us with- 
out papa, I was not at all afraid." 

" Well, but make haste, Lucy, for he may 
overtake us after all." 

Complying Lucy hurried along by her 
sister's side. 



LUCY AYLMER. 33 

" Maude," she said, after they had walked 
on some moments in silence. " How strange 
it must feel to Mr. Erresford to be at his 
home again !" 

" How strange, Lucy ? this neighbourhood 
has never been his home." 

'' Oh, yes, it has, you know the old Earl 
was very fond of the Castle ; until his death 
they came here occasionally." 

" I remember hearing papa say somethhig 
about it ; but they never resided here in our 
time?" 

" No, Lady de Walden disliked the place, 
she found it dull, and was only too glad to 
leave it altogether when the Earl died." 

"So much for her taste !" replied Maude 
independently, "I am sure they cannot be 
nice people, if they do not like Forsted, dear, 
darhng home." 

Lucy smiled. "It is indeed a dear little 
place, so snug and comfortable, with no one 
to interfere with us." 

" You will not be able to say that long," 
rejoined Maude, "depend upon it, the De 
Walden people are fond of dictating, I 
should not wonder directly they know us, if 

c 3 



34 LUCY AYLMER. 

they were to find fault with our education, or 
way of Uving." 

"No, dear Maude, they cannot do that,*' 
repUed Lucy, "besides I dare say we shall 
not see much of them, you and I are so much 
younger than the Lady Erresfords, and so 
different, that it is not likely we shall suit 
them, though Robert told me the younger one, 
Lady Mora, I think that is her name, is very 
amiable." 

" I think if Robert hkes her so much, he 
had better marry her," said Maude. 

Lucy coloured up to her forehead, as she 
said timidly. " Oh ! there is so much dif- 
ference in rank." 

"As if the Aylmers had not been just as 
good in their time, as the Erresfords ! — 
indeed when I was looking over an old book 
of papa's the other day, I found the name 
of Aylmer earlier in the history of the 
county than that of Erresford ; but Neville is 
older than either," she added with a self- 
complacent look. 

" Oh ! Maude dear, I am sure we are very 
happy without thinking of pedigrees, they 
will not make us any better or happier, and 



LUCY AYLMER. 35 

if we are proud about such things, we are 
sure to have a fall, Mr. Lane said something 
very like it in the sermon to-day." 

"I am sure I did not hear it," rephed 
Maude, jumping over a stile which connected 
their fields with the road, " not that it makes 
us happier as you say, only I hke to know 
we are as good as the Erresfords." 

Lucy sprang lightly over the stile after her 
sister, and as they walked across the meadow, 
she said, " I cannot think why we should 
dislike Lady de Walden returning to the 
Castle, I suppose it is because we have been 
accMstomed so long to have the village to 
ourselves, and are afraid of new people making 
alterations ; but don't let us find fault with 
them any more." 

" What a good little thing you are, Lucy 1" 
exclaimed Maude, looking admiringly at her 
sister's sweet face. 

Lucy laughed. " No, but Maude, I mean 
it, we shall take quite a prejudice if we talk so 
much about them." 

" Well then, darling, if you don't wish it, 
we will never mention the name of Erresford 
except with adjectives of goodness before it." 



36 LUCY AYLMER. 

" How funny !" said Lucy, " I never saw 
such a droll girl as you Maude." 

" My dear, you have seen so few girls to 
compare me with. I am sure ladies are scarce 
about here, at least, young ladies." 

" Yes, how few girls we have known ! but 
I am glad of it, for it has only made us love 
each other more." 

" As if any one could help loving you !" 
exclaimed Maude, in an indignant tone ; as she 
stopped to kiss her sister's fair cheek." 

"And I am sure, Maude, you deserve to be 
loved as well," said Lucy, smiling at the 
vehemence of her sister's tone. ^ 

"Oh, Lucy, you are quite different from 
me ! I am so much more independent, 
people must love and pet you, you are made 
for it." 

" That remains to be proved," rephed 
Lucy archly, " for the present, Maude," she 
continued, " to know you and papa love me, 
is everything." 

"But we managed to spare some love for 
Mildred, didn't we, Lucy?" 

" Oh, yes ! but then Mildred was like one 
of ourselves, I wonder if we shall ever see her 



LUCY AYLMER. 37 

again ? I suppose not, at least, not till we 
have grown old." 

" I am sure you will never grow old, 
Lucy darling, with that young little face of 
yours/' 

Lucy laughed and so did her sister, though 
Maude recalled those Avords some years after, 
and thought them prophetic. 

Squire Neville who was wandering about 
the grounds, met the girls as they returned 
from church. 

" Holloa, my pretty ones !" he called out, 
as he saw them at the end of the shrubberies ; 
both ran forward to meet him. "Well, 
Maude, have you been a good girl at church ; 
eh, Lucy, my little parson ?" 

Lucy only coloured and laughed in reply, 
and took her father's hand in hers. 

" Well children," continued the Squire. 
'' I have not seen you since last night, the 
dinner went off very well, and I begin to Hke 
Erresford, in spite of his backing me out at 
the hunt, he is a nice fellow." 

" Is he papa ?" Maude said in an absent 
tone. 

" Lots of changes are coming about," the 



38 LUCY AYLMER. 

Squire went on, " who do you think we are to 
have for our parson?" 

" Oh ! I heard papa, when I was bringing 
down the dessert last night," said the truthful 
Maude. 

"Well, are you not glad? I thought of 
you both directly Erresford told me." 

" Yes, it will be nice to have Robert for a 
neighbour," both the girls answered at once. 

''And you are going to have some more 
neighbours, too." 

" At the Castle," rephed Lucy, " but they 
are strangers." 

" You may soon know them, I should not 
wonder if Erresford calls this afternoon, he 
wants to see you both." 

" We shall be out for our afternoon's walk," 
observed Lucy, " and then we have our old 
women to visit." 

" Oh leave the old women for once," replied 
the Squire. 

"They would think us so unkind," pleaded 
Lucy. 

"My pretty Lucy never did an unkind 
thing, I am sure, and no one shall say that her 
father made her do so, I don't want you to 



LUCY AYLMER. 39 

forsake your old women, Lu, only be a little 
quicker over them than usual." 

Lucy pressed her father's hand gratefully, 
as she replied, " Yes, papa." 

" Now children, off with your bonnets and 
come down quick to dinner," said the Squire, 
as they entered the dining-room through the 
low mndows. 

The girls were not long in obeying him, 
and then Maude took the head of the table, 
opposite her father, and fair Lucy sat between 
them. I do not think the Squire and Maude 
would have cared in the least for their dinner, 
without Lucy to coax and find dainty morsels 
for : first Maude looked at her lovingly, and 
then the Squire, and both conversed and drew 
out her quiet sayings, as if she had been some 
honoured guest. Everything was referred to 
Lucy, and everything Lucy even hinted 
seemed law. Squire Neville and Maude did all 
they could to spoil Lucy, but did not succeed ; 
there are some natures so unselfish, so gentle 
and yielding, that do what you will, you 
cannot harm them, and Lucv was one of these 
— her faults, if such they can be called, were 
over gentleness and timidity, but beyond 



40 LUCY AYLMER. 

these, Lucy was a blameless creature — her 
countenance expressed this ; so unruffled, 
so utterly free from passion or cares, that it 
was repose to rest the eyes on that youthful 
face — and Maude's was all energy ; all self-will, 
her beautiful eyes restless and roving; her 
upper lip generally slightly raised, as if ready 
to speak, for Maude was seldom silent. And 
Squire Neville's face was so handsome and 
wore such a kindly expression of good- 
humour, that people wondered he had re- 
mained a widower. 

Such was the group, who, after dinner, sat 
round a little table in the sunny old drawing- 
room, finishing the nuts left from yesterday's 
dessert. 

It was a complete autumn afternoon, a 
bright clear sky with plenty of sunshine, and 
here and there a little knot of white snowy 
cloudlets blown along by a high wind, that 
had risen in the night, and was busy carrying 
off the leaves from the tree-tops, and sending 
them flying across the paths, and against the 
windows. Maude and Lucy were always 
accustomed to take a walk with their father 
on Sunday, in summer they went out after tea, 



LUCY AYLMER. 



41 



and how they enjoyed those rambles on the 
Sabbath eve, when they wandered by the 
river side, and watched the fishes leaping and 
rising in the clear waters, and admired the 
kingfisher pluming his feathers in the long 
grass, or counted the purple and gold dragon- 
flies which buzzed past them — and when they 
had waited for the sunset on Bushman's Hill, 
they took the road leading to the village, and 
often arrived home in the starlight, after lis- 
tening to the hooting of the owl in the De 
Walden woods, and wondering at the glow- 
worms shining on their path. Nor were 
their autumn and mnter walks less pleasant, 
when they went briskly along the lanes in the 
frosty afternoons, and talked about the coming 
Christmas, and the poor people they meant to 
make glad with winter presents, for though 
the girl's purses were always small, yet they 
contrived to find some little savings for their 
poor pensioners. There was also another 
pleasure to which they looked forward, and 
which they were talking over that Sunday 
during dessert. 

Mr. Neville had a younger brother, Archer, 
who had studied for the bar, and was now 



42 LUCY AYLMER. 

high up m his profession, and hved in style 
and luxury in the west end of London, the 
Squire had also two sisters, one had married 
very young and died in Ireland, the other, 
Augusta Neville, a dashing, handsome woman, 
still young enough to be admired, lived with 
her brother Archer, and made his home both 
gay and attractive. These two annually for- 
sook their elegance and gaiety, and passed the 
Christmas season at the old Manor House in 
Somersetshire. 

It was quite an event, this yearly visit, to 
Maude and Lucy, and weeks before, Maude 
began her preparations. Augusta Neville had 
very fascinating manners, and knew how to 
make herself as agreeable in quiet little Forsted, 
as in her favourite London coteries, besides 
she was really fond of her brother Philip and 
his daughters, of whom she could not help 
being proud, and certainly their lovely fresh- 
ness and inartificial manners were quite a 
relief after the ftided belles of a London sea- 
son, and Miss Neville looked forward to some 
future day, when if she could win their father's 
consent, she woidd take her young neices to 
the metropolis and introduce them herself into 



LUCr AYLMEH. 43 

the gay circles she thought they would so well 
adorn. 

The girls were, as yet, quite unconscious of 
their aunt's intentions, for though in common 
with others who had never visited the metro- 
poUs, they ardently desired to see London and 
all its wonders, yet they would have turned mth 
dread from the idea of a London season. Miss 
Neville thought there was yet much to be done, 
their education required more finish, and their 
dress to be modernized, and the only new 
books or music they ever had, and the only 
smart dresses they wore, w^ere the Christmas 
gifts of Aunt Augusta. It was not then to be 
wondered at, that Miss Neville formed the con- 
versation of a half-hour, before the Squire 
reminded the girls of their walk. Their 
toilette was not long in making, and soon 
they were going along the hilly road leading 
towards Arminster. Very simply attired the 
girls Avere, in their dark merino dresses, and 
cloaks, and plain-looking straw bonnets, their 
w4iole costume scarcely costing as much as 
many London ladies give for their bonnets 
alone — and yet, Maude Neville and her sister 
wore a far greater stamp of elegance, and indeed 



44 LUCY AYLMER. 

noblesse than half those who roll along Hyde 
Park in their ermines and velvet. Lucy took 
her father's arm, it was characteristic of her 
nature, which was leaning and clinging; 
Maude walked by his side, independence was 
marked on her countenance, she needed no 
support. They went along a beautiful road, 
on one side bordered by hills, w^hile, on the 
other, miles of valley stretched far away till 
they blended with the horizon. Here and 
there the high road was crossed by a pretty, 
rural lane, very steep, and so stony that the won- 
der was, how a cart or chaise could ever ascend 
it ; then, after a while, the road skirted the fine, 
majestic-looking woods of Castle St. Agnes, 
dark and frowning in their never changing 
tint of sombre green, for the greater part of the 
trees were pines. 

" I should think the Black Forest must 
look something like this, papa,'' said Lucy. 

" I don't know, my dear, I have never been 
out of England; you must ask Aunt Augusta 
next time she comes." 

"Should not you like to travel, papa?" 
asked Maude, " I know I should." 

" I dare say you may some of these days, 



LUCY ATLMER. 45 

my dear, but I am too contented at home 
ever to rove abroad." 

" Oh, papa, you cannot possibly love home 
more than I do, but still I sometimes feel 
just a passing wish to peep at the homes of 
other people." 

" Ten to one you would be disappointed, my 
beauty !" said her father. 

" Well, papa, I shnll not die of a broken 
heart, if I do not go," replied Maude. 

" What do you know about dying of a 
broken heart ?" said the Squire laughing, ''you 
learnt that out of Aunt Augusta's novels, I 
suppose, eh, Lucy ! Didn't she?" 

"Aunt Augusta scarcely ever brings us 
novels, papa ; her books are generally poetry or 
travels," replied Lucy. 

'' Oh, ho ! that's where Missey has got her 
roaming mania," said the Squire. 

" No, papa, aunt's books plead innocent, for 
it was Robert's grand description of the places 
he and Mr. Erresford saw on their vacation 
trips that put into my head the longing to see 
foreign countries — ^but, papa, when is Robert 
to take possession of his Uving ?" 



46 LUCY AYLMER. 

" Not quite yet, I think, Maude. Erresford 
talks of smartening the old church and par- 
sonage first." 

" What a shame to touch the church !" ex- 
claimed Maude indignantly, " what bad taste 
Mr. Erresford must have !" 

"Not so fast, Missey," said the Squire, 
smiling. " I will vouch for Erresford doing 
nothing to spoil our little church, just a touch 
of paint, and a little whitewash won't hurt us ; 
and a stove to keep the floors dry will be a 
perfect boon to your rheumaticky old ladies." 

" Yes, it will be nice," replied Lucy eagerly, 
" for we are certainly very cold in winter ; and 
perhaps Mr. Erresford will make the windows 
fit a little better ?" 

" You shall ask him, httle Lu," said her 
father good-humouredly. 

" Oh no, papa," and Lucy looked to see if 
he meant it, but she saw by his smile, he was 
not in earnest, though the colour quite 
mounted to her delicate cheeks, at even the 
possibility of her interfering with the grand 
Mr. Erresford. 

" I am sure the church does very well," 



LUCY AYLMER. 47 

observed Maude in an absent tone, " it was 
good enough for Mr. Ferrers, and I am certain 
Robert is not particular." 

"You don't know yet," said her father, 
putting his arm over her shoulder, "young 
gentlemen, new from College, bring home very 
different ideas from those they took with them." 

'' But we have seen Robert many times 
since he came from Oxford,'' replied Maude, 
" and I noticed no change in him ; did you, 

Lucv ?" 

t/ 

" No," replied Lucy, timidly, " but I dare 
say, Maude, papa knows best." 

" Good little woman, she never questions 
papa's authority. Well, you are a couple of 
dear girls, and very clever, no doubt, but you 
see your father has lived some twenty years 
longer in the world than either of you, and 
age and wisdom usually go together." 

Maude laughed. " Oh, papa, you must not 
talk about age yet !" and she looked up at the 
handsome face, round which not one single 
grey hair was to be seen in the rich waves of 
brown. 

There was a stile to get over, then the 
little party picked their way along the some- 



48 LUCY AYLMER. 

what muddy path through a turnip-field ; 
at the end, there was a plank over a 
brook, and then another stile which brought 
them into some meadows leading to a 
quaint old-fashioned farm-house. The Squire 
was going to enquire about a horse, farmer 
Meekin had for sale, so he opened the 
wicket-gate, and entering the little flower- 
garden, still bright in all its dahlias and chry- 
santhemums, knocked at the old deep-set 
door. No one was at home, the family had 
gone out for the day, and they retraced their 
steps. The wind was blowing full in their 
faces now, and Maude and Lucy were obliged 
to hold on their bonnets, but the Squire who 
was not quite so careful, had the pleasure of 
chasing his hat across the meadow, and, at 
last, picked it up again in a cart-rut. Maude 
and Lucy excessively amused, came running 
after, but at the end of the field they stopped, 
for over the stile just in front of them jumped 
— Mr. Erresford. Maude let go her bonnet, 
and pushed back the stray hair the wind 
had blown over her face, radiant and glowing 
from the exercise. 

What a beautiful creature ! thought Erres- 



LUCY AYLMEE. 49 

fori, and lie imagined he had never before 
seen any one so bewitching, but he turned to 
Lucy with her dehcate face flushed by the 
rough autumnal T\dnd, he could scarce refrain 
from exclaimino;, " What an ano:el !" 

The Squire, by this time, had replaced his 
hat in its proper position, observed Erresford, 
and shaking hands heartily, made a little in- 
clination towards the girls, and said, " Erres- 
ford, these are my daughters, this is Maude, 
and that is Lucy." 

Maude and Lucy did not intend to do any 
thing more than bow, but Mi\ Erresford was 
not disposed for so formal a greeting, for he 
came forward and shook hands mth each in a 
very friendly manner, and then he asked the 
Squire in what direction he was going. Mr. 
Neville replied, it did not signify to him in the 
least, he believed he was going home ; so 
Erresford turned and went with them, Lucy 
claimed her father's arm again, and Maude 
walked by her side, while the Squire appro- 
priated Erresford's arm, that is to say, when 
thev reached the hio;h road, for in the fields 
there was only a narrow path, and they were 
obhged to walk one by one. 

VOL. I. D 



50 LUCY AYLMEK. 

" I fear we took you very much by surprise 
yesterday ?" said Erresford, addressing the 
sisters. 

" Oh no ! not at all," replied Maude, coldly, 
" we are accustomed to it." 

" Yes, my girls know pretty well as much 
about country sports as you or I," observed 
the Squire. 

"But I suppose the Miss Nevilles have 
never yet been to a hunt ?" said Erresford. 

"Not yet," replied the Squu'e, "you see, 
my Lucy is a little bit timid when she finds 
herself mounted, and Maude does not like to 
leave her sister ; but Maude, you must make 
a beginning soon, when we have got Aunt 
Augusta to leave Lu with, you shall see a 
Imnt." 

" But surely, Miss Neville would not like 
to find herself among a bevy of sportsmen ?" 
said Erresford, quickly. 

" Oh ! she will have her father, and you 
must remember, Erresford, that your London 
ladies and our country lasses are quite another 
thing." 

" Well, I must join the party when Miss 
Neville follows the hounds," said Erresford, 



LUCY AYLMER. 51 

smiling, " I wish I could persuade my sisters 
to keep you in countenance," he added, turn- 
ing to Maude. 

"Ladies who are unaccustomed to hunt 
would be frightened," rephed Maude. 

" Then at that rate, you ought to be, 
Missey," said her father, slyly. 

Lucy, who had not spoken before, here 
ventured her timid voice in behalf of her sister, 
though for herself she would have said nothing. 
" Oh, papa, Maude is never afraid !" 

" No more she is," replied the Squire, " I 
wish I could say the same of another little 
personage." 

Lucy blushed crimson, Mr. Erresford 
thought the colour that came and went par- 
ticularly becoming, but he pitied her embar- 
rassment, and said : " I hope my sisters and 
your daughters will become great friends, Mr. 
NeviUe." 

" Oh ! my girls will be glad enough to be 
neighbourly, when they get over the first shy- 
ness," replied the Squire. 

Poor Maude was quite vexed her father 
should lead Mr. Erresford to suppose they 
were shy, it was so stupid — so childish ; and 

D 2 

UNIVERSITY OF 



52 LUCY AYLMER. 

to prevent Mr. Erresford from fancying them 
so, she said : 

" My sister and I will be very glad if the 
Lady Erresfords will call and see us some- 
times." 

" It must become something more than a 
calling acquaintance, I hope you will be inti- 
mate with my sisters, at all events with Elora, 
she is more your age than Anne." 

" Lady Anne is what we may call strong- 
minded, eh Erresford ?" said the Squire, who 
had soon become familiar with his new friend. 

Mr. Erresford laughed. " Many people 
think her so," he rephed, "but she is really 
very good-hearted, though her temperament is 
cold." 

" That's right, I like to hear a man speak 
well of his sisters," said the Squire, " you shall 
see mine at Christmas. I suppose your ladies 
are all in London now ?" he added. 

" No, at Brighton ; they w^ere there when 
the fire took place." 

" Was any one hurt ?" asked Maude, think- 
ing it proper to take part in the conversation. 

" No one was injured," Erresford replied, 
'' the fire broke out in the dayhght." 



LUCY AYLMER. 53 

" I suppose the whole place is burnt clown ?" 
said the Squire. 

" No, only the left wing of the house and 
the servants' offices, the fire originated in the 
housekeeper's room, through a child who was 
playing with a lighted stick, I believe ; but 
every one appears very confused in their 
reports — it is decided, however, that Lady de 
Walden and my sisters take up their residence 
here, till all is repaired, and by that time, 
perhaps, they will learn to like the neighbour- 
hood." 

" I think that will not be difficult," said 
Maude, as she passed again under the shade of 
the Woods. 

" We must go home through the village, 
if you please, papa," said Lucy's soft voice, 
as the Squire was going to take a shorter path 
towards the Manor House. 

" What, going to leave Mr. Erresford and 
me for the old ladies, eh Lu ?" 

" Yes, papa," replied Lucy smiling, and 
Mr. Erresford thought it a real treat only to 
look at that sweet face just then, and yet 
there was no brilliancy of expression, no 
critical correctness of feature, no depth of 



54 LUCY AYLMER. 

colour, all was subdued and quiet, and lie 
felt there was a repose even in being near 
her. 

" My girls have each a pet old woman 
down in the village, Erresford," said the 
Squire, by way of explanation, " and they 
always steal half-an-hour from me on Sundays, 
to give to them, though it is a denial to spare 
my girls for even that little time ; but you 
will come home with me Erresford, I can't 
promise you a dinner, because we have dined 
country fashion to-day, but Maude will give 
you some tea, and we'll find you some supper. 
Come, no excuses, better take up your quarters 
with us, than spend a solitary evening in that 
haunted looking old castle." 

"Oh, I have no excuse," replied Erresford, 
"I shall be only too glad to accept your 
hospitality. So we are to part here, Miss 
Lucy?" he added, as Lucy left her father's 
arm, before a very low thatched cottage at 
the entrance of the village. 

Lucy replied in the affirmative, and after 
an au revoir from Erresford, they parted. 
Cecil Erresford did not notice Maude enter a 
rose-covered cottage on the opposite side; 



LUCY AYLMER. 00 

but he followed Lucy with his gaze and 
watched her, like a ray of hght, cross the 
miserable threshold of a poor hovel — he could 
not see her sit down by the bedside of the 
sick and aged inmate, nor hear her read from 
the httle Testament she carried with her, 
words of Sunday comfort, about Christ heal- 
ing the sick on the Sabbath day, and explain 
to her hearer the meaning of the words as 
they presented themselves to her simple 
imagination. If Erresford could have been 
Avitness, he, who loved and venerated all that 
was holy and pure, what would he ha\'e 
thought of Lucy Neville ?" 

It was growing dusk when these young 
sisters had finished their work of love, and 
then they joined each other and hastened 
along the fields. Maude's protegee, the ^vife 
of a labourer, insisted on sending, as an escort, 
her little son, a rosy plough-boy, in his Sunday 
smock, who walked along by their side, and an- 
swered in his broad, Somerset dialect, the ques- 
tions of the young ladies; at the garden gate 
they dismissed their rustic beau, rejoicing in 
the possession of a bright penny from Lucy's 
pocket. The girls went straight up into their 



56 LUCY AYLMER. 

own room, and when in that favourite retreat, 
Maude surveyed herself in the glass with a 
slight look of discontent. 

" Lucy," she said, " we can never go down 
to Mr. Erresford in these dresses, what would 
Aunt Augusta say?" 

" Papa is always satisfied with our dress, 
dear," replied Lucy, carefully placing their 
bonnets in a cupboard. 

" Yes, but Aunt Augusta always makes us 
dress differently for visitors." 

" But then, it is Sunday, to-day, and so it 
cannot signify," pleaded Lucy. 

" That is all very well, if Mr. Erresford 
were not accustomed to such smart people !" 
and Maude tumbled out of a drawer, two 
simple white dresses not improved by repairs 
and lengthening. 

Lucy, who always submitted to her sister's 
superior knowledge in dress, soon arrayed 
herself in her white, and after smoothing down 
her fair hair, and assisting Maude, the sisters 
descended to the drawing-room. 

The Squire and Cecil Erresford were sitting 
by the fire-light over their wine, but Erresford 
rose as they entered, and gave his large, easy 



LUCY AYLMER. 57 

cliair to Maude ; while he cbew the sofa 
towards the fire for Lucy, and seated himself 
beside her with quite an air of veneration. 
She was very quiet, he could scarcely get her 
to talk ; she sat still with the flickering flames 
shining partially across her face and white 
dress, and lighting up her small hands crossed 
meekly on her lap, and Erresford was remind- 
ed of many saintly pictures he had seen in 
foreign galleries. Cecil made himself very 
agreeable, it was his nature; and at length 
Lucy smiled, and Maude forgot to be as 
cold as she intended. At tea, Cecil sat by 
Maude, and helped her pass the cups and 
take care of Lucy, thereby getting more into 
Maude's good graces. The evening did not 
appear long, though once the Squire fell asleep 
in his arm-chair, and left Cecil to the un- 
divided attention of his girls. By-and-bye, 
Mr. Neville woke up, and asked if Cecil liked 
music ; and when he replied in the affii^mative, 
in spite of blushes and excuses, he made the 
girls get out their old music book, and sing 
some sacred pieces. The Squire thought 
their singing perfect, it was not so, however, 
for they were self-taught, and Maude's second 

D 3 



58 LUCY AYLMER. 

was sometimes too loud for Lucy's first, but 
Erresford thought not of time or tune ; he 
only wished he could sing too, that he might 
chime in with those young fresh voices in 
singing Sabbath praises, on his first Sunday 
eve at Forsted. 



LUCY AYLJIER. 69 



CHAPTER III. 

To all that is most great and admirable, 
Thou art akim. I have no words to speak 
The thoughts I have of thee, thou noble man f 

JOANNA BAILLIE. 

A GRIM old pile was Castle St. Agnes, 
with its grey stone walls and early Norman 
architecture, standing in stately soUtude, 
amidst a spacious and well-wooded park 
reclining on the edge of a gentle valley and 
crowned by lofty Hmestone hills, on whose 
summits rose the pines which frowned guard 
over the Arminster Road. The whole of 
October, preparations were going on for the 
reception of the Countess and her daughters. 
Waggon after waggon arrived daily from 
Arminster station, with furniture, statuary, 



CO LUCY AYLMER. 

antique vases, candelabra, and all that was 
necessary to make the castle a fit residence 
for its noble owners. 

Cecil Erresford remained there all the 
month, superintending the arrangements and 
making himself acquainted with the tenantry ; 
and his winning fascinating manner, soon 
compelled them to like him — there was a 
peculiar blending of the grave and the gay 
in his composition, that made him agreeable 
to all — one moment he was all life and anima- 
tion, laughing and joking with the jolly 
farmer, who came to pay his respects at 
Castle St. Agnes, and in another ten minutes 
he would be sympathising with an expression 
almost sorrowful on his joyous face, in the 
troubles of some poor cottager. Cecil Erres- 
ford did not like to see suffering in any form, 
in his early boyish days he had tried to close 
his eyes, and altogether shut out from his view 
the existence of ought save beauty and happi- 
ness in God's world, but he found as he grew 
older, that it would not do, in looking at the 
roses, he must observe the thorns, and when 
he became convinced of life's shadows as well 
as its sunbeams, a thoughtfulness sprang up 



LUCY AYLMER. 61 

and blended itself with the flood of sunshine 
that hung over him, a thoughtfulness that 
made him, form plans for lifting up and 
casting away the shadows when he found 
them. They never fell on Cecil Erresford, 
but frequently on those around him, and to 
these he became a friend and benefactor. He 
was rich — besides his own family fortune, the 
whole immense wealth of an uncle was his — 
but he had never cared for wealth till he came 
side by side with poverty, and then he felt its 
power — none ever taught him to care for others 
— none ever set him a bright example of bene- 
volence — CeciFs generous heart was given him 
from Heaven. How many felt the fruits of 
that generosity, and knew not whence they 
came, for Cecil's gifts were not done to be 
seen of men — he had no need of praise, the 
reward was in the happiness of his own heart. 
Often and often while he was at college, were 
gifts sent to those he knew to be struggling 
with necessity and anxiety — sent carefully — 
secretly — that the recipients might not have 
the pain of thanks — and then the son of rank, 
and fortune, would sit down and draw for 
himself happy pictures of the surprise and 



62 LUCY AYLMER. 

delight of the objects of his bounty. Some 
one, perhaps, equally young, equally talented 
with himself, but whom the lavish hand of 
fortune had not visited. Cecil was every one's 
friend, he did not always employ his wealth as 
a dispeller of shadows, rich acquaintances 
courted his society, they said it was impossible 
not to like so noble a fellow. 

Such was Cecil Erresford — handsome, 
clever, fascinating and brilliant, he was quite 
conscious of all this : but that consciousness 
brought with it neither conceit or pride — he 
was too much a gentleman to be conceited — 
too thoroughly superior for the weakness of 
pride. But how was it Erresford played 
such a prominent part in the family of the 
Countess, and where was its representative, 
the Earl ? Here was the greatest shadow on 
Erresford's life, his elder brother, always 
weak in mind and body, had of late years 
become quite imbecile, and usually resided 
in Italy, or the south of Erance, the mild 
climate suiting his delicate health ; on Erres- 
ford, therefore, devolved the control of the 
property and estates of the Earl. 

It was one of the foggiest days of that 



LUCY AYLMER. 63 

foggy month, November, on which Erresford 
went to London to bring the Comitess and 
his sisters down to Castle St. Agnes, they had 
come up from Brighton early in the week to 
their mansion, in Park Lane, and were ready 
for Cecil — he remained with them three days in 
town, and during that time there was fog with- 
out intermission — nor did it disperse on the 
tenth, when the express by which the noble 
party journeyed, was so oppressed by this same 
fog, that it did not reach Arminster till an hour 
after the stated time. A travelling carriage 
was waiting at the station, into this Erresford 
put his mother and sisters, and then the 
postillions with their impatient horses, dashed 
off into the regions of fog. 

" I never remember such a tedious journey 
in my hfe," hsped the languid voice of Lady 
Elora. 

" Naturally it must be tedious in this fog," 
rephed Lady Anne, diyly, " Cecil how many 
miles is it to Eorsted?" 

"Twenty, ma soeur," Erresford answered, 
" I only wish the sun shone that you might 
admire the beauties of your native county." 



64 LUCY AYLMER. 

" Not mine," said Mora, pettislily, " Park 
Lane is my native place." 

" You are a cockney, then !" replied her 
brother laughing ; " but you and I belong to 
Somerset, do we not, Anne ?" 

" Yes, I believe so, but what does it signify 
where our birth-place is ?" 

" Oh, most unromantic Anne 1" exclaimed 
Erresford playfully, " there is much in a birth- 
place — at least, the pubUc think so, I have no 
doubt." 

" The pubHc ! what can you possibly mean, 
Cecil ?" asked Lady Anne, " what have they 
to do with our native place ?" 

"Probably ours will be a matter of no 
import to any one, but as the birth-plcaes of 
the great become spots of public resort, I dare 
say the visitors who frequent such locahties, 
would prefer they should be pleasantly 
situated, rather than in the metropolis," and 
Erresford gave a sly glance at his sisters. 

" I thought you were going to put forth 
some absurd reasoning," said Lady Anne, 
trying to see something beyond the damp 
window. 



LUCY AYLMER. 65 

Erresford who sat opposite her, looked in 
the same direction : " Now here Anne 1" he 
exclaimed, "is one of the most beautiful 
panoramas perhaps in England, forty or fifty 
miles of valley bounded by hill." 

" AVhat is the use of teUing us that, Cecil?" 
said Lady Flora, who w^as looking over her 
brother's shoulder, "I see nothing but fog — 
fog — quite a sea of it, worse here than else- 
w^here, because it is denser down in your 
vaUey." 

"Oh, but, Elora!" replied Erresford, gaily, 
" there is the view there in spite of the fog, 
and that will not last for ever." 

"I am sure we have had it for days and 
days," sighed Elora in a triste tone. 

"It is the forerunner of frosts," Erresford 
replied, " hard, clear, frosty days, such as you 
delight in, Elora, you will enjoy them doubly 
here, I can take you rides, such as you never 
saw before." 

The Countess, who was ensconced in sables 
and velvet, in the comer of the carriage, to all 
appearance asleep, here lifted up her head : 
" Still the same Erresford," she said, " you 
always were an enigma to me as a child." 



66 LUCY AYLMER. 

" How SO, mother ?" he exclaimed, turning 
towards her. 

"I never could understand how you 
managed to see every thing cm couleur de rose, 
and now you even find beauties in a black 
fog !" 

" Not exactly in it, but behind it, there is 
no lack of beauties here, I do not think there 
is anything prettier than a summer mist 
among these hills ; I remember five summers 
ago, I had run down with Aylmer for a day 
or two's shooting, and we wanted to go over 
to Arminster about some pointers ; I recollect 
as well as possible it was the fourth of Sep- 
tember, such weather we had for more than a 
week, it was like the dog-days ; but that 
morning when we started at eight o'clock, 
there was nothing to be seen but a thick mist, 
it hung about us like rain, you could 
positively see it falling in drops ; we were glad 
enough to have the apron up, and keep on our 
over-coats ; but by the time we had driven 
round to Pine Top, the mist began to dis- 
perse — first it slipt off the hedges, and unfold- 
ed to view the nut-trees laden with nuts, the 
corn-fields bright with poppies and the pretty 



LUCY AYLMER. 67 

wayside cottages 7— then presently the mist 
rolled off from one hill-side, and retreating 
clung like a veil to the other, then this too 
melted away gradually, and we saw first the 
hill tops, then the grassy side, and when it 
had all dispersed, the butterflies came out by 
dozens, bright aud gay in the hedgerows, and 
the sun and clear blue sky bm*st upon us and 
them all gloriously." 

" Oh ! you are so romantic, Cecil, and 
then that was diflerent, there is no com- 
parison between summer mist and a great 
winter fog," said Flora, leaning back and 
shutting her eyes. 

Lady Anne sat bolt upright, and continued 
perseveringly looking at the fog. " Are there 
many poor here, Cecil ?" she asked in an 
absent tone. 

" A whole village, Anne," he replied. 

" Are they very poor — very neglected ?" she 
asked again. 

" Yes, there appears plenty of poverty in 
Forsted." 

" I am glad of it," obsen^ed Lady Anne. 

"Oh, Anne !** exclaimed Lady Flora, start- 



68 LUCY AYLMER. 

ing up, with more energy than she had yet 
displayed. 

" You misunderstand me," said Lady Anne; 
" I am not glad at their poverty, but rejoiced 
that there is something to do in this isolated 
spot." 

" How odd you are, Anne," said Flora, 
leaning back again, while Cecil opened his 
eyes, and looked at his elder sister with a 
comic expression of astonishment and wonder ; 
"Flora smiled, it was a pity she did not do 
so oftener, for it was a great improvement. 
" Cecil is laughing at you, Anne," she ex- 
claimed, "and no wonder; for you are the 
oddest creature I ever saw." 

" I am accustomed to it," was Lady Anne's 
short reply, uttered in a tone of perfect un- 
concern. 

" What is the nearest family to the Castle ?" 
•asked Flora. 

" Mr. Neville's," replied her brother, " they 
live at the Manor House, considerably nearer 
the village than we." 

"Is his wife a nice person?" asked Flora 
again. 



LUCY AYLMER. 69 

"Mrs. Neville is dead, but he has two 
charming daughters." 

" Are they children, or have they already 
been introduced ?" 

" They have never been in London in their 
lives, though Miss Neville is seventeen, I 
believe." 

" Then T know what they are, I have seen 
specimens of the class before, rural young 
ladies, who pass their lives making pies and 
embroidering chair-backs, and have not two 
ideas beyond their own village," said Flora. 

" When you see the Miss Nevilles, you can 
compare this description vdth them, and judge 
if it agrees," replied Erresford. 

" Nonsense, Cecil, I cannot wait till then ; 
you must describe them yourself, are they 
pretty ?" asked Mora. 

'' Yes, both in a different style, for there is 
no resemblance between them, at least in point 
of feature, but they are alike in a certain 
freshness and purity that have such a charm 
for me, they remind me very much of the blue 
heavens over which the black clouds have just 
passed heavily, and yet no trace is left behind 



70 LUCY AYLMER. 

in the fair sky, and though I suppose no one 
can Hve in the world, even in such a secluded 
spot as Forsted, without some of its sins and 
wickedness passing before their view, yet these 
sisters are uncontaminated by them, I am sure 
the mind of each would bear open inspection." 

" What a high-floAvn description," said Lady 
Anne, " are they well educated — who teaches 
them ?" 

'' They have been very much self-taught," 
Erresford replied, " at least, from all that I hear 
I imagine so, but their education is of that 
kind that must give elegance, they have learned 
much from the poetry of nature." 

" I must see these young ladies," observed 
the Countess, " I suppose they will call after 
Sunday." 

" You will in all probability be disappointed 
in them at first," said Erresford, " for Lucy, 
the younger, is extremely timid, and Maude is 
rather cold with strangers." 

" Maude and Lucy, what beautiful names !" 
said the Countess, " they sound quite romantic, 
I think I shall like the Miss Nevilles." 

" We have all some peculiarity certainly," 



LUCY AYLMER. 71 

observed Flora, " and I think mamma's must 
be judging people so much by their names." 

" I do not judge people by them, but I con- 
fess names influence my opinion in some 
degree," replied the Countess. 

Just then the postillions turned their horses 
sharply round a bend in the road, and the 
carriage wheels rattled over the pavement of 
the pretty hamlet of Sleebury, and stopped 
before the swinging sign of the ' Blue Boar,' a 
most warlike looking beast, grinning at travel- 
lers through the fog, out of which two ostlers 
issued to water the horses and light the carriage 
lamps. A very quaint sounding bell chimed 
the three quarters from a high old tower hard 
by, looming doT\Ti upon them like a spectre 
through the mist, and a number of little 
country urchins came tumbling and scrambling 
out of the parish school, shouting and hollow- 
ing at one another in the darkness. Erresford, 
who had alighted from the carriage, soon had 
a knot of them around him, asking for half- 
pence for squibs and crackers, though the fifth 
of November had passed. There must have 
been something very kindly in Erresford that 
children were all so fascinated towards him. 



72 LUCY AYLMER. 

the poorest child in the London streets would 
look up at him as he passed, and take sympathy 
from his compassionate gaze. The Sleebury 
boys all talked to him at once, told him their 
names unasked, and soon forgot all about their 
firework mania, till he flung a handful of half- 
pence amongst them, which he had procured 
from the jolly landlord of the ' Blue Boar,^ who 
stood looking on admiringly — then while the 
boys were scrambling in the fog, and tumbling 
upon each other in their eagerness, the servants' 
coach came up, containing the ladies-maids of 
the Countess and her daughters, two parrots, 
a lap-dog, and a German cat; so Erresford 
sprung back into his seat, and the postillions 
guided their horses slowly down the steep hills. 
The darkness of evening had blended with the 
darkness of the fog, when the old massive 
doors were thrown open to receive the family 
back to the Castle, after nearly a quarter of a 
century's absence. No change had passed 
over the place, the house looked defiant and 
loyal still, with its Norman turrets grey, and 
darkened Avith age and storms, and its cold 
stone terraces and haunted chambers, and 
liady Mora, who was the first to alight, almost 



LUCY ATLMER. 73 

shuddered as she entered the wide, gloomy 
looking hall, with its shining black oak floor- 
ing and dark ceiling, with heroes and warriors, 
from Roman History, looking down upon her. 
There was plenty of shadow in the hall, the 
centre lamp illumined the large marble 
table and one or two paintings o^ the wall, 
but there were great corners full of darkness, 
appearing so traitorous and indistinct, that 
Lady Flora paused on the threshold, and waited 
for her brother, who had been assisting the 
Countess and Lady Anne, and resting her 
hand on his arm, she exclaimed in a dejected 
tone : " Oh, Cecil, what a gloomy place !" 

Instead of answering, Erresford led her 
past the retinue of servants who were waiting 
to receive the noble ladies, through one of 
those dark corners to a door which was thrown 
open by an attendant. There was as much 
light here, as darkness without — it was the 
reception-room ; a long, long room which 
looked as if it would never end, with couches 
and settees of all shapes and sizes down the 
sides, among carv^ed, and inlaid tables, and 
statuettes, and flowers grouped together on 
slabs or in stands, while in the centre stood 

VOL. I. E 



74 LUCY AYLMER. 

a high crimson ottoman, stuffed with down, 
and surmounted by a group of sculptured 
figures — and against the walls the draperies 
and paintings, of one side, were reflected in 
the mirrors of the other; while long, high 
windows with gilded devices on the shutters, 
lace and damask shadowing them, extended 
from the ceiling to the ground, and the 
candelabra from the walls and those hanging 
from the ceiling were all lighted ; so that 
Lady Plora involuntarily closed her eyes, but 
she re-opened them instantly, and looking at Er- 
resford with less discontent on her countenance 
than before, said, " this certainly looks more 
like home !" then sitting down on a couch, she 
looked at her reflection in the opposite mirror. 
It showed her a bonnet crushed from travel- 
ling, and a figure enveloped in 'svraps, she 
turned away dissatisfied, and consulting a 
gilded time-piece on a pedestal near her, she 
Avalked slowly and silently away up the broad 
staircase. There was a wide landing, almost 
an upper haU at the top, filled with statuary 
placed along the sides between a number of 
high oak doors. Lady Flora listlessly placed 
her hand on the handle of one, and went in 



LUCY ATLMER. 75 

and sat down on the edge ©f a sofa by the fire. 
She supposed the room was hers, she knew it 
was to be in the front of the house, and she 
saw her own traveling cloak lying on a chair ; 
but she did not care to take the trouble of ring- 
ing for her maid, so she rested her elbow on the 
sofa cushion, and her face on her hand and 
watched the coals dropping on the wide old 
grate, she gazed sadly at them too and several 
times a deep drawn sigh escaped her lips, her 
countenance wore a discontented and dis- 
satisfied expression ; but when was the time 
that it did not? Poor Lady Flora! there 
were many reasons why she sighed, and why 
she should look dissatisfied ! what was there 
— what had there ever been satisfying for her in 
the world ? Oh, her's was a strange life ! 
There are such things as favourites — favourite 
doctors, favourite lawyers, favourite clergy- 
men — there is also such a thing as a favourite 
child, loved above all the rest, spoiled, con- 
sulted, thought of, and moreover, set above 
the others. The Lady Anne Erresford was 
one of these. There are also children who 
are not favourites, indeed w^ho are almost dis- 
liked — being constantly reminded of their 

E 2 



76 LUCY AYLMER. 

want of beauty, want of talent, their nnamia- 
bility and a thousand other imperfections — 
and, at last, learn to look upon themselves as 
the most miserable and unfortunate specimens 
of childhood — to this class belonged the Lady 
Flora. 

The Countess De Walden was by nature 
neither affectionate nor warm-hearted, and 
all the love she could call forth, she bestowed 
on her eldest child, the Lady Anne— -she was 
so proud of her beauty, so vain of her talents, 
so charmed with her reserve and pride, that 
she wished her to be her only daughter, and 
lier wish for some time appeared likely to be 
fulfilled, when fourteen years after Flora was 
born. This was an immense disappointment 
to the Countess, her whole heart was in the 
gay society, which she frequented and where 
her uncommon beauty and high rank made 
her the star of attraction, and she thought 
her handsome Anne and her two noble boys, 
Frederick and Cecil, the one two, and the 
other six years Anne's juniors, quite enough 
for her mother's pride, and the plain, puny 
child whose crying she protested, quite wore 
her out, was looked upon as an intruder and 



LUCY AYLMER. 77 

a trouble. Love and fond caresses were un- 
known to the little Mora, except from her 
warm-hearted nurse, who vented her honest 
indignation at '' my lady's shameful neglect," 
in redoubled care of the hapless infant ; 
and almost the first thing Flora heard or 
knew was the sad, withering fact, that 
her mother did not love her. No mother's 
step trod the nursery floor — no mother's 
voice called forth her baby's smile ! indeed, 
the three first years of her life, she scarcely 
ever saw her mother, she had been sent 
away with her nurse from Park Lane down 
to the estate in Essex, before she was two 
months old, while her lady mother com- 
pleted a London season, and then went oft* 
attended by her lord — who, by the way, was 
an easy, devoted husband — and accompanied 
by Lady Anne, for a ramble in Italy, without 
even desiring to see her child — and in the 
winter, when they returned to England, they 
went immediately into Warwickshire to pass 
the Christmas with Lord Howard, the 
Countess' father, and from there they flitted 
to Brighton, and from Brighton to Park Lane, 
and so on for three years, at the termination 



78 LUCY AYLMER. 

of which, the Earl died suddenly. There was 
an end, at least for the present, to all gaieties, 
and the " Morning Post" told the world the 
widowed Countess and suite had gone to the 
estate in Essex — they did not add and to her 
forlorn little child ; for so rarely had she ever 
been mentioned, that very few people knew of 
her existence, and those few, from the reluc- 
tance with which the Countess spoke of her, 
thought she must be imbecile or deformed — 
so the Countess' admiring friends never 
troubled her with Lady Flora's name. And 
now, when the tall, stately lady sat in her 
boudoir, all clad in crape, with her massive 
hair hidden away beneath the flutings of her 
cap, and her little child was brought to receive 
its mother's kiss ; she was frightened at the 
dark drapery, and cold, set expression of her 
stranger parent, and turning away screaming 
from her outstretched arms, was carried back 
to her nursery without any caress, and pro- 
nounced by her ladyship " a passionate, queer- 
looking little thing," and her ladyship seldom 
interfered with her, till it was time to take 
her from her nurse's kind care, and consign 
her to a governess who was sent down to 



LUCY ATLMER. 79 

Essex, to commence Flora's education. She 
was not naturally a stupid child, but she 
wanted humouring and assistance in her 
lessons, and this she never received, her 
favourite studies she was least encouraged in, 
and those she dishked were pressed upon her. 
The governess soon discovered that the 
Countess did not care for her little pupil, and 
acted accordingly, and when Lady De Walden 
expressed to Miss Blockett, what a pity it was 
Lady Mora was not clever hke her sister — 
Miss Blockett replied, " Yes, it was a pity, 
for Lady Anne was quite a genius," and when 
the Countess deplored Flora's plain looks. 
Miss Blockett said, " Yes, she had none of her 
Ladyship's beauty," then her ladyship would 
rest her beautiful eyes on little, plain Miss 
Blockett, and without even a smile in acknow- 
ledgment of the compliment, say, " Well, do 
the best you can with her, only do not let me 
hear her cry," and so turn away and forget 
poor Flora, and her troubles in her splendid 
daughter Anne. The Countess mourned two 
years for the noble earl, and then she put 
aside her weeds, and went with Lady Anne to 
the mansion in Park Lane, which had been 



80 LUCY AYLMER. 

beautified to receive them, for the Lady Anne 
was nineteen, and was to commence her Hfe of 
gaiety by a presentation at Court. The 
Countess had centred all her hopes in some 
brilliant alliance for her elder daughter ; but 
though she created some sensation, yet season 
after season passed, and she was still only the 
Lady Anne Erresford. She did not take with 
the young noblemen, who, at first, had flocked 
around her, the fact was they were afraid of 
her ; " the Countess was proud and reserved 
enough," they said among themselves, " but 
Lady Anne was unbearable ;" in truth, she 
had been so consulted and praised by her 
family, and so worshipped by her fawning 
dependants, that she mounted high the pinnacle 
of pride, and stood on such a lofty elevation, 
that she was constantly looking up to self, 
and could never get self to look down upon 
any one else. 

And all this time. Lady Flora was growing 
up in her solitude with her cross, servile 
governess, and passing her day over tasks, or 
in the corner ; she was natiu'ally an idle, and 
a passionate child, and as she was never 
encouraged in her studies, and always pro- 



LUCY AYLMER. 81 

voked when she lost her temper, both these 
failings grew upon her, and cold treatment 
also formed deceit, for weary of punishment, 
she learnt to tell falsehoods to hide her fail- 
ings — and, certainly, she became anything but 
an agreeable child — she was so constantly told 
how naughty she was by her governess, and 
how impossible it was to love her by her 
mother, and how very wicked she would grow 
up if she did not improve by her sister. But 
she did not grow up wicked ; when she was 
fourteen, a circumstance occurred which 
altered her character materially — the gover- 
ness, a fawning, unprincipled creature, mar- 
ried the steward of a neighbouring estate — 
it was a time of rejoicing for her poor pupil, 
particularly as her successor was as kind and 
conscientious as Miss Blockett had been the 
contrary. 

She was a widow, and had in her heart a 
mother's love, she quickly found out the whole 
history of poor Flora's life, and began her 
course accordingly ; she did not occupy her- 
self so much in teaching as in influence, and 
Mora found it no longer necessary to tell 

E 3 



82 LUCY AYLMER. 

falsehoods from fear, she was encouraged, 
assisted, and kindly and gently helped in her 
troubles ; so that though she was still a 
frightened, nervous girl, and regarded herself 
as something uncommonly wicked and sad, 
and cried herself to sleep night after night, in 
sorrow, at her ugliness, yet she became quiet 
and gentle, and even learnt to smile, and 
sweet those smiles were when they came, 
though they were wintry and transient, and 
were sometimes as melancholy as tears. 

Lady Flora was not introduced till she was 
twenty, and then, from an awkward, ugly 
child, she had changed to an interesting, 
elegant girl; she was tall and slight, with 
rather a bend in her graceful figure, and 
though there was no bloom on her pale 
cheeks, yet her small, delicately formed 
features, and soft, dark hair, her anxious, 
frightened expression, and her very pensive 
eyes, which were scarcely ever raised to any 
one's face, made her, if not really pretty, very 
attractive, and though Lady Anne, with all 
her beauty had settled down to a decided old 
maid at thirty-four ; yet a fortnight after her 



LUCY AYLMER. 83 

introduction, Lady Tlora received proposals 
jfrom the rich, and influential Lord Glen- 
dowan. 

The Countess was surprised, and charmed 
— really Flora had risen considerably in her 
mother's esteem by this offer — Lord Glen- 
dowan was certainly twenty years her senior, 
but then he was descended from a long line of 
ancestry, and was so looked up to, and 
courted, and poor Lady Flora had no alterna- 
tive but to accept him — and indeed she felt 
grateful to him for his esteem ; but, alas ! 
poor girl, though she tried, and longed, she 
could never love him in return ! surely if 
devotion to her every look, and every word, 
if costly gifts could have produced love, they 
ought with her, but Lord Glendowan was not 
fated to call forth the warmth of that heart 
which had so long been a stranger to 
affection. 

It may be imagined that it was annoying 
to the Lady Anne, to feel herself neglected 
with all her talents and beauty, while her 
unattractive sister was engaged immediately 
she entered society ; but Lady Anne was cold 
and impassive, and did not trouble herself 



84 LUCY AYLMER. 

about it, indeed she preferred remaining 
single ; only that the life of inactivity rather 
bored her busy mind — ^just then, however, 
Tractarianism came on the tapis, a little off- 
shoot from its mother oak — Rome — this was 
just the thing for Lady Anne, a perfect boon ; 
it made her of consequence, gave her some- 
thing to do, so she espoused the cause warmly, 
opened her heart and her purse, patronized 
long-coated clergymen, got up subscriptions 
for modernizing churches, and adorning chan- 
cels, wore a gold cross round her neck, and 
did her Puseyism in a highly approved 
manner, and set the fashion for a number of 
young ladies, as silly as herself, to follow. 
Poor Lady Flora grew more and more into 
Anne's ill-favour, by not agreeing with, and 
following her fashionable excitement, not that 
she ever attempted to argue on the subject, 
she was too indolent and timid, but she some- 
times ventured a remark, and was always 
treated by the Lady Anne with cold disdain. 

The late earl had left in his will, that his 
daughters were not to marry till they came 
of age, and the Lady Flora remained engaged 
to Lord Glendowan a whole year; her one 



LUCY ATLMER. 85 

and twentieth birthday came and passed away, 
and when her noble suitor spoke of the time 
he hoped to claim her as his bride, she put 
him off for another year, on the plea of her 
brother Lord De Walden's illness, and the 
Countess's absence, who was travelling in 
France with her son ; at length, however, 
Lady Flora consented that their marriage 
should take place the summer following the 
November which found them at the Castle. 
During the last few years, a new and unex- 
pected pleasure had dawned upon the Lady 
Flora, her brother Cecil, whom she had rarely 
seen, had lost the uncle who had adopted him 
as his heir, and he returned for some time to 
the home he had seldom visited since his boy- 
hood ; Cecil had heard his sister Flora spoken 
of as a disagreable, wilful child, and had pitied 
her, not knowing how disliked and neglected 
she was, but when he came home and saw the 
timid, uncomplaining girl, pity changed to love 
for his young sister, and displeasure against 
those who had so cruelly neglected her. 

It was a long time, however, before Flora 
would allow him to show her any affection ; 
she was afraid of him, and when he addressed 



86 LUCY AYLMER. 

her, expected it would be a lecture ; but by 
degrees her fears vanished, and almost the only 
person in her family she did not dread, and 
at whose name she invoked a blessing in her 
prayers, was her brother Cecil. 



LUjaf--AYLMER. 87 



CHAPTER III. 

She seem'd a thing 
Of Heaven's prime uncorrupted work, a child 

Of early stature undefil'd. 
A daughter of the years of innocence, 
And therefore all things lov'd her. 

SOTJTHET. 

SquiPvE Neville stood outside his hall door^ 
stamping first one foot and then the other on 
the hard ground, for a frost had succeeded the 
November fog — a tall horse harnessed to a 
very high dog-cart, was also there — the old 
family coach, and the httle low park carriage, 
which Mrs. Neville used to drive, had both 
been sold long ago, to pay for one of the 
Squire's hunters, so the dog-cart was the only 
vehicle left in which to drive his daughters. 



88 LUCY AYLMER. 

and, indeed, Maude and Lucy preferred it to 
any other that could have been offered them, 
in the first place, because it was so nice and 
high, and in the second, because their father 
invariably drove it. To-day he was to take 
them to Castle St. Agnes, to pay their first 
visit to the Countess. They had dressed with 
more than usual care in " Aunt Augusta's " 
latest presents, and as the Squire lifted them 
up on to the high front seat, he gave them 
both an approving look ; and when he was 
fairly seated by their side, he told them they 
were bonnie girls, and he was not ashamed of 
them. Then the groom jumped up behind, and 
they set off down the drive, the fair Lucy 
ensconced snugly between her father and 
Maude, and covered with a scarlet wrapper 
which reflected a bloom on her cheeks. 

The Squire, who thought the girls might 
possibly be frightened at the prospect of meet- 
ing strangers, talked merrily all the way as 
they drove down the hill, into the valley, and 
then up the road to the Castle. The Squire 
drew up at the park gates and asked the lodge- 
keeper if the Countess were at home, and the 
man answered, " my Lady had taken her drive 



LUCY AYLMER. 89 

in the morning, and that she ne^ er went out 
twice in the day" — so on went the Squire's tall 
horse, arching his proud neck into quite an 
aristocratic curve, as much as to tell his neigh- 
bours, the stud of the Countess' stables, should 
any of them be in sight, that he considered 
himself quite as good as they, and while the 
Squire assisted his daughters to alight before 
the old Norman mansion, the noble animal 
stood pawing up the new gravel, and shaking 
his head at the powdered footmen at the door 
with a perfect air of disdain. 

All the dark corners of the hall which had 
thrown a chilling feeling into Lady Flora's 
heart, were light now with the slanting rays 
of a frosty, autumn sun, which was already 
declining and glancing restlessly about, now 
falling on an ancestral painting, now throwing 
warmth and almost life on a cold sculptm'ed 
group. * Maude, who was quick in observa- 
tion, saw everything at a glance, but timid 
Lucy only saw the very tall footman before 
her, and the door he was aiming at — the door 
that shut in the Countess and her daughters. 
The Countess and the Ladies Erresford, were 
sitting in a large winter room, snug and warm 



IJO LUCY AYLMER. 

as room could be, all the rays the sun shone 
through vapours and mists, the winter room 
received — a yawning grate piled with good 
Forsted timber, helped the sun, and so did 
deep crimson draperies, and wadded and 
stuffed elbow-chairs and sofas. Oh, how 
nice and warm ! thought Maude, after her 
drive through the autumn air, but Lucy's first 
thought was, how untidy ! — indeed, the unti- 
diness quite distressed her neat little mind — 
close by a bay window was a square table, 
whose cover had been thrown off over a chair, 
and which was entirely hidden with great 
sheets of brown paper, piles of tracts, large 
scissors, — more fit for a tailor's shop than a 
lady's fingers — coarse thread, needles, pens, 
ink, and all the paraphernalia for covering and 
marking tracts, and behind all this litter, 
stood Lady Anne in a dark silk dress, with a 
gold cross suspended round her ne^k by a 
band of purple velvet, and in the act of seam- 
ing down some paper with the great scissors. 
Close to the fire, as close as chair could pos- 
sibly stand, sat Lady Flora, in a very low 
seat, bending over a very delicate piece of 
embroidery, with a small inlaid table at her 



LTJCr AYLMER. 91 

elbow, heaped up with other pieces of em- 
broidery, unfinished crotchet, and wool-work ; 
while a work-box stood on a chair behind her. 
The Countess, who scorned fires, had appro- 
priated the centre table, where uncut books 
reposed tranquilly in the vicinity of a menac- 
ing paper-knife turning its threatening edge 
towards a stout, important-looking volume, 
companion to the one Lady De Walden held 
in her hand, and which she laid aside as she 
rose, so thought Lucy — to a height quite 
awful, increased by the train of her black 
velvet dress. She was a beautiful woman, 
with wavy hair encircling a face age had not 
yet robbed of its loveliness — she unbent and 
put aside her stateliness as her visitors en- 
tered, and even smiled down on the blushing, 
timid face of Lucy, who did not feel afraid 
after she had heard the courteous tones of her 
voice, fior did she fear Lady Mora, who 
looked up at her from beneath her long eye- 
lashes, wished her a very quiet good morning, 
and then, turning to Maude, for whom she 
cleared away the work-box, invited her to the 
fire. But Lucy really did feel very uncom- 
fortable, when she found herself occupying the 



92 LUCY AYLMER. 

same sofa with Lady Anne, who, putting 
aside her thimble aud scissors, condescended 
to entertain her youthful visitor. She was 
very handsome, but her compressed lips and 
stern eyes, took away all the pleasantness of 
her beauty. Poor Lucy folded her hands 
and looked across the room to Maude, taking 
all the trouble of conversation off Lady Flora. 
She did not envy her sister, but she thought 
it woidd be nice to be a little like Maude — 
not that Lady Anne was silent, on the con- 
trary, she exerted herself to entertain her 
young guest, though she thought it particu- 
larly hard work. She began by saying, she 
had been wishing to see Lucy and her sister, 
having heard so much of them from her 
brother. Lucy did not know what to answer 
to this, so she only smiled in reply, and made 
Lady Anne think, what a stupid child ! But, 
poor Lucy, hearing Maude mention the 
village, caught an idea, and told Lady Anne, 
she hoped she would like Forsted. 

" I have no doubt I shall," Lady Anne 
replied. " There seems a great sphere of use- 
fulness here, and when our new vicar comes, 
I shall begin to work in real earnest." 



LUCY AYLMER. 93 

How? thought Lucy a little puzzled, she 
did not ask, of course ; but said she hoped 
every one would be glad when Robert came. 

" I think my brother told me, you knoAv 
Mr. Aylmer intimately," said Lady Anne, 
letting those deep, searching eyes rest on the 
quiet countenance of Lucy. 

" Yes, we have knoTMi Robert ever since 
we can recollect, he used to be our play- 
fellow," she replied. 

The idea of the future vicar of Forsted 
having been the playfellow of the shy little 
girl before her was too much for Lady Anne, 
and she actually sighed, not rudely, but quite 
a sigh of pity, for herself, for the village, and 
for all the inhabitants of Worsted St. Agnes. 

" The painting and white-washing in the 
church will soon be finished, I think," said 
Lucy, getting a little emboldened. Lady 
Anne was not attending, she was listening to 
her mother's conversation with the Squire, so 
she only replied, " yes, very soon," in a listless 
tone that showed she was not thinkinor at all 

o 

about it. 

But poor Lucy who thought it incumbent 



94 LUCY AYLMER. 

on her to try to talk to a person so much 
older than herself, and little guessing — how 
should she, innocent child, to whom the word 
Puseyism was unknown — Lady Anne's new 
religious excitement, observed how glad she 
was the church was not altered, and asked 
Lady Anne if it would not have been a 
pity? 

This direct appeal recalled Lady Anne's 
attention, and she said with her searching 
eyes again turned on Lucy. " Why so ?" 

" Oh, I do not know, only I thought it 
might have been spoiled," replied Lucy with a 
series of confused blushes, that made her look 
very pretty. 

" Altering would not have spoiled it, Miss 
Neville, any more than it did preparing this 
house to receive us," replied Lady Anne, in a 
very patronizing, instructive tone, as if she 
were explaining to a child the first rudiments 
of some new study. 

" No," Lucy answered mechanically, but in 
an unconvinced voice. 

" Of course, it could not, my dear, churches 
must be decorated according to the prevailing 



LrCY AYLMER. 95 

style of architecture/' Lady Anne said this in 
the same way, and immediately she said it, 
sprang up and stamped her foot on the 
hearth rug, to the great astonishment of Lucy, 
who had not observed rather a large piece of 
burning coal, pop suddenly out of the fire. 
" I wonder you did not see it, Plora,'' re- 
marked Lady Anne. 

But Plora had not noticed it, for those very 
pensive eyes were cast dowm as usual, even 
now, w^hen Maude all in a glow of animation, 
was describing a pic-nic party they made some 
years back to the sea, w^hen Lucy nearly fell 
over the cliffs, but Robert saved her. 

" Mr. Aylmer looks too passive to be the 
principal actor in any scene of danger," w^as 
Lady Flora's reply w^hen Maude paused in her 
narrative. 

" T have often heard people find fault with 
Robert for being too passive, but there is a 
great deal more in him than they think, w'hat 
Robert requires, is bringing out." 

" I dare say I am mistaken, but to me he 
always appeared as if designing persons could 
mould him as they pleased — he has no direct 
opinions of his own. I do not w^ant to find 



96 1.UCY AYLMER. 

fault with Mr. Aylmer, for I pity him, it is a 
weakness, and no one but those who are un- 
decided know how unhappy it may make 
them;" this was an unusually long speech 
for Flora, but Maude's frankness had inspired 
her, and she leant back in her chair and 
drooped her head, as if she were quite unused 
to the exertion. 

" I am sure Robert is very happy, unless 
he is altered during the last six months/' said 
Maude, her briUiant eyes sparkling, " at least, 
he used to be, in the days when we played 
hide and seek, and climbed trees together, and 
Avhen he has occasionally visited us, since he 
has been a clergyman, I am sure he was always 
cheerful enough." 

" Oh, very likely," replied Lady Flora 
languidly, " you know I have only seen him 
as my brother's friend, he is your intimate ac- 
quaintance, of course, you can judge better of 
his character, it was simply a fancy of mine 
that he was wavering." 

" I think you are," thought Maude, who felt 
rather a contempt for Lady Flora's hesitating 
opinions, and yet there was something in that 
drooping head, and those pensive yet earnest 



LUCY AYLMER. 97 

eyes, whose glance, whenever it was raised, 
seemed to expect reproach and dissatisfaction, 
that ought to have inspired pity and sym- 
pathy, rather than contempt. 

" Do you ride, Miss Neville ?" asked Lady 
Flora, after playing a few moments in 
silence, with her watch chain, during which 
time, Maude was looking round to see how 
her darling got on with Lady Anne. 

"I can ride, but I do so seldom," she 
repHed, " because I do not like to leave my 
sister alone." 

"Is Miss Lucy timid?" enquired Lady 
Flora, and turning towards the calm little 
face, she continued, " how sweet your sister 
looks !" 

" And I assure you, her looks and her dis- 
position agree, you cannot possibly fancy 
how good and delightful she is." Maude's 
face beamed at this opportunity of praising 
her sister, and then she said in answer to 
Flora's question, " Yes, she is rather timid, 
she had a fall once, it was not a bad one ; but 
it took away her courage, besides the exercise 
of riding fatigues her very much." 

" Is not your sister strong ?" asked Lady 

VOL. I. F 



98 LUCY AYLMER. 

Flora, again looking at Lucy, and wishing she, 
too, had such a gentle sister. 

" Oh, we are never ill !" replied Maude, a 
glow of health suffusing her countenance, 
" only Lucy cannot ride quickly, or run very 
fast, it takes away her breath." 

" It is to be hoped she has not a heart 
complaint," said Lady Flora, still resting her 
eyes on Lucy. 

Maude looked very surprised as she 
answered, " Wliat an odd idea. Lady Flora !" 
but she was silent for a few minutes after- 
wards, and looked grave ; for she did not like 
even the idea of anything being amiss with 
her darling Lucy; Lady Flora, however, 
roused her by a soft exclamation of, " She is 
really lovely !" 

Again came Maude's beaming look, and 
with it a sort of liking for Lady Flora, because 
she admired her sister. 

" Has your sister ever had her likeness 
taken ?" asked Flora very timidly, as if the 
question were rude. 

" No, never," replied Maude, '' there arc 
no artists down here ; I wish there were, that 
I might have her picture." 



LUCY AYLMER. 99 

Ladv Flora cast her eves ven' much down, 
and twisted her chain up into a Httle cable, 
between her nervous fingers, as she hesi- 
tatinc:lv remarked, " Do vou think vour sister 
would let me tiy r" 

" Try what, Lady Plora ?" asked Maude, 
bluntly. 

'' Only I fancy I have a little taste for 
sketchinor likenesses ; I drew an old house- 
keeper of oui-'s, and I took a few portraits of 
the French peasantry', when we visited poor 
De Walden last summer — please do not say 
an}1;hing about it now," she added, as Maude 
turned towards her sister ; " but if some day, 
when we are alone, you would ask her, it 
would be such a pleasure to have a httle 
sketch of her face, I should like to look at it 
sometimes." There was something: almost 
painful in the self-depreciating, frightened 
tone in which she said this ; but Maude did 
not obsen'e it, she was so pleased and flat- 
tered with Lady Flora's notice of Lucy, and 
even blushed with pleasure, as if the praise 
had been her own ; she assured Lady Flora 
that Lucy would be veiy glad to let her take 

F 2 



100 LUCY AYLMER. 

her likeness, and added she hoped Lady Flora 
would come to see them soon. 

" Yes, I hope so, I will call when I am able ; 
would it be intruding, if I came in the morn- 
ing : Mamma and Anne make calls after 
luncheon, and I would rather visit you alone;" 
she said this in a low tone, and Maude 
thought her very odd; but she told her 
they would gladly see her in the morning. 

" Is it a long walk to your house ?" 

"Not quite two miles," replied Maude, 
" but do you not drive ?" 

" Oh, yes 1 but Anne wants the pony chair 
for her people, for visiting them — I mean, she 
began the second day we came, and she 
intends making a systematic plan, I be- 
lieve." 

" Scarcely any of the villagers can read," 
said Maude, glancing towards the square 
table, where lay the tracts. 

"Oh! can they not? poor things, how 
sad !" exclaimed Flora. 

"It will be worse than useless to give 
them tracts, Lucy and I always read to them 
ourselves." 



LUCY AYLMEU. 101 

" Do you visit the poor, and does Lucy — 
your sister, I mean — visit, too ?" asked Lady 
Flora, with more interest than she had yet 
displayed. 

" Oh, yes ! certainly we do," replied 
Maude, a little surprised at the question, 
*' and do you not, also ?" 

" Mamma never allowed me to go when I 
was a child, and now I do not know what to 
say, I am afraid to read for fear they should 
not like it ; besides, it makes me unhappy to see 
poor women working so hard, the children 
half clothed, and the men so intoxicated." 

'' Could you not help them ?" said the 
straight -forward Maude, ''it is so easy to find 
things to say, you can talk about their children 
and their gardens, and they ask us themselves 
for a ' pretty chapter.' " 

" Do they ?" said Flora, " they behave so 
differently to Anne, when we were at AVood 
Hall, our house in Essex, a woman once turned 
Anne out by her shoulders." 

Maude laughed, and Lady Flora looked as 
if she dreaded Lady Anne inquiring the cause. 

'' An old man did the same thing to Robert," 
said Maude, when she had finished laughing. 



102 LUCY AYLMER. 

"And what did Mr. Aylmer do?" asked 
Elora. 

" Oh, a very naughty thing," rephed Maude, 
" he stopped his allowance ; did not 1 scold 
Robert well for it !" she laughed again at 
the remembrance. 

" Mr. Aylmer appears very good tempered," 
remarked Lady Mora. 

" Indeed he is," Maude answered, " he lets 
us do and say exactly what we please, he is 
quite a brother to us — and we always said 
Mildred was our sister, and Robert used to 
call Lucy his ' little wife ' — she is quite a pet 
of his." 

Lady Flora looked again at Lucy, the last 
beams of the declining sun encircling her like 
a glory, and a flush as of a summer rose on 
her face; she was listening to Lady De Walden, 
who said to the Squire, she hoped they would 
be good neighbours — to which the Squire re- 
plied, it should not be his fault if they were 
not — and then he rose after an unfashionably 
long visit that quite shocked Lady Anne, 
wished the noble ladies good morning — and 
mounting the girls again in the high dog-cart, 
covered them well up in plaids and wrappers. 



LUCY ATLMER. 103 

the tall horse shook his proud neck once more, 
and was soon in a trot down the hill. 

" A rum concern that !" said a footman as 
he watched the visitors off. 

" Not much tin there/' said another, who 
was warming his hands by the hall fire. 
Now by the word ' tin,' he meant money and 
riches such as his noble mistress possessed, 
but the Squire was richer than the Countess, 
insomuch that his two bonnie girls were 
younger and fairer than hers, and sweeter too, 
he thought ; and when the Squire sat down 
that evening in the somewhat thread-bare 
drawing-room, and played ' old maid ' by the 
light, or rather shade, of an old-fashioned 
lamp, he thought himself a very rich man, aye, 
and a very happy man, too ! — and so he was 
then. But there are shadows as well as sun- 
beams on our life, sometimes the shadows fall 
on our purse, or on our children, or on our- 
selves. Now of every possible shadow, the one 
the Squire would least have chosen, had choice 
been his, was one that might fall on his children 
— his favourite expression in allusion to their 
happiness, was ; "he would be shot first, 
before anything should harm them." But 



104 LUCY AYLMER, 

we cannot always choose our shadows, can 
we Squire? because we should not always 
choose those that are best for us, should we 
Squire ? for those that seem worst when they 
fall are best, only we don't know it — so do not 
attempt to choose your shadows, or talk about 
being shot, Squire. 

But there are no shadows about the Squire's 
hearth now, so why should we talk of such 
dismal things — and there are no shadows near 
the Squire's hearth, are there. I see none ? 
Robert Aylmer, has written to-night to teU the 
Squire he will come and stay at the Manor 
House next week, till the vicarage is finished ; 
and I am sure no one considers Robert a 
shadow — he is always a joy — the girls laugh 
more, and the Squire talks more, when he is 
there. No, there are no shadows except such 
as the fair moon throws among the oaks and 
elms on the lawns, and in through the latticed 
windows on the dark wainscoting at midnight, 
and she even peeps through a space in the 
green curtains and sheds a pale beam or two 
on the couch where Lucy sleeps, but she keeps 
the shadows off Maude, on Lucy they fall, but 
the light falls too on her pillow and weaves a 



LUCY ATLMER. 105 

circlet above her brow, one hand is under her 
head, she always sleeps so, and it raises her to 
meet the light ; it is a very faint light, for the 
curtains strive to keep it out, but it mil come 
— ^it is there — there is always light where Lucy 
Neville is, there is innocence on Lucy Neville's 
brow, and this hght loves to be there. 



F 3 



106 LUCY AYLMER. 



CHAPTER V. 

When thy bounding step I hear, 
And thy soft voice low and clear. 
When thy glancing eye I meet, 
In their sudden laughter sweet. 
Thou^ I dream, wert surely born 
For a path by care unworn. 
Thou must be a sheltered flower, 
With but sunshine for thy bower. 

MBS. HEMANS. 

The stage-coach from Arminster, brought 
Robert Aylmer and his luggage to Forsted, he 
went first to the Vicarage, deposited his pack- 
ages, and looked about him a little, admiring 
the neat style of the alterations and decora- 
tions, and heard with pleasure from the men 
employed, " that it was Mr. Erresford's taste, 
and that Mr. Erresford, came a'most every day 
to see after it hisself." 



LUCY AYI<MER. 107 

What was there which the Honourable 
Cecil Erresford, one of the representatives of 
the county, sole controller of the De Walden 
estates, and possessing besides the vast fortune 
bequeathed him by his uncle — clever — hand- 
some — courted — what was there which he had 
not been to Robert Aylmer ? the son of a poor 
country gentleman, whose small property had 
been sold to pay for his extravagance and folly. 

Poor Robert Aylmer ! what would have 
become of him without Cecil, for his relations, 
like himself, were nearly all portionless ? He 
had a brother, some years his senior, who had 
also chosen the church as his profession, and 
was ordained to a London curacy of eighty 
pounds per annum, under a fat, lazy Rector, 
who passed half his life in travelling about, 
trying to spend the one thousand nine hundred 
and twenty which his curate left him. 

Bad air, and hard work, however, waged 
war with the naturally weak constitution of 
Lascelles Aylmer, and one day as the Reverend 
the Rector, was handing his lady into his 
splendid herald-emblazoned carriage, while on 
one of his foreign excursions, the post brought 
a letter from his churchwarden — short — con- 



108 LUCY AYLMER. 

cise, announcing the six weeks illness, and 
finally the death of his young and excellent 
curate. The Rector actually managed a few 
tears, expressed his regrets — and then Avrote 
to his churchwarden by return of post, to be 
on the look out for a hard-working, unmarried 
clergyman, to begin on the graves of his pre- 
decessors, to work and wear himself out, all 
for eighty pounds per annum ! — worthy 
Rector ! 

Then Robert Aylmer, had a sister Mildred, a 
dimpled, rosy girl, who seemed to have thrived 
well on the poverty of Preston Hall, and who, 
at its sale, and her parents' death, went to live 
with a rich aunt in London, who, however, 
contrived to make her life so miserable, that 
she quickly fell in love with a lieutenant, in a 
regiment ordered on foreign service, and 
managed to live happily in Canada, on 
scarcely more than her stylish Aunt in Belgra- 
via, spent yearly on her gloves. And Robert, 
the youngest of the once great house of 
Aylmer, which bore a coronet on its scutch- 
eons, and had fought manfully in many of 
England's great battles — what became of 
him ? — he had the good fortune to please his 



LUCY AYLMER. 109 

Belgravian uncle, who gave him a year at 
Eton, where he first fell in with Cecil Erres- 
ford. Robert was a meek, passionless boy, 
amiable to a fault, idle and wavering as a 
natural result. He fell into disgrace ^^ith 
his masters, and became a mark on whom his 
companions might play their practical jokes, 
and persecute to their hearts' content. But 
Erresford came to the rescue, he began by 
Hking Robert, simply because every one else 
made him an object of contempt ; and then 
he proceeded to like him for his amiable quali- 
ties, which Cecil speedily discovered, and 
after a short friendship, there w^as not one of 
Robert's former persecutors, who dared to lay 
a finger on him — so much for Cecil's cham- 
pionship. But Robert's year at Eton soon 
expired, and then his rich relation, disap- 
pointed with his progress, repented his muni- 
ficence, and intimated to the Aylmers that he 
could no longer support their son — too proud 
to ask a continuance of his favours, they pre- 
pared to remove Robert to their poor home, 
when young Erresford discovered the real 
state of things. No one knew how% for 
Cecil never pryed into closely guarded 



110 LUCY AYLMER. 

secrets, and from his own handsome allow- 
ance, he determined to support his friend. 
At first, his uncle was averse to this, but 
Cecil steadily persevered in his request, and 
at last carried the day, as he usually did with 
every one ; and from that time forth, Cecil 
performed an elder brother's part towards 
Robert, and on his parents' death, insisted on 
his home becoming Aylmer's. When the 
two friends left Eton, Cecil bade Robert 
choose a profession, and after much hesita- 
tion, his choice fell on the Church, and toge- 
ther young Erresford and his protege entered 
Oxford life, and there it required all Cecil's tact 
and influence to keep Robert from harm, not 
that he was dissipated or gay, but ever waver- 
ing, ever easily led, he threatened again to 
become the tool of designing companions ; but 
Erresford saved him, and had the satisfaction 
of seeing him settle in a curacy, not many miles 
from Lord De Walden's property in Essex, 
and there he remained until Mr. Eerrers' death 
left vacant the living of Eorsted, which he had 
come into possession, that very day, and as 
he took a survey of his parsonage, promising 
to be so comfortable, what wonder was there 



LUCY AYLMER. Ill 

that in common with many others, he blessed 
the name of Erresford ? He looked around 
the Httle church, which, though painted, and 
cleaned, Erresford had left unaltered — up to 
the gallery with the crimson fittings, and the 
coat of arms, round at the white-painted 
pews, and Httle pulpit with stairs so narrow, 
he wondered how he should be able to ascend 
them, and then at the plain Httle chancel, 
where a man was laying down, first matting, 
and then dark purple carpet to cover the 
stone flags, and though this too was Erresford's 
doing, yet Robert's face wore just the sHght- 
est shade of disappointment, he would have 
liked a little more ornament, a few hints in 
architecture and taste from that ' dear sister 
of ours' who watches over us with such kind 
and tender care, and stretches out her helping 
hands in the building and decorating of our 
churches ! Not that Robert thought himself 
' High Church,' on the contrary, he fancied 
himself just the thing — perfectly orthodox ! 
He could not be supposed to guess that the 
dear sister ! had an eye on him, and a net pre- 
pared for him, where he least expected it in 
the person of the Lady Anne Erresford. She 



112 LUCY AYLMER. 

passed while he was in the church, letting a 
shadow fall over the graves, as she went on to 
the cottagers, with a bag of tracts on her 
arm, well got up, insinuating little pamphlets, 
large print and pictures, and strange sounding 
titles among them, showing the cottagers 
easy ways of salvation. There was the Bap- 
tismal way, the Confirmation way, the Altar 
way, the Priests' way, and the Churches way, 
but not a word about Christ's way on any 
line or page, except as a way subordinate to 
the other ways. No Bible lay in the bag 
among the well got up little books. Our 
dear sister ! does not approve of the laity 
having the Bible, she thinks they go on best 
without it ; and she convinces a good many of 
her * sister's' people of this, though it may 
appear strange ; because her ' sister's people' 
were put in prison, tortm'ed and burnt for the 
Bible's sake ; but that is a long time ago, and 
martyrs are not the fashion just now, it does 
not improve the nerves and senses of the nine- 
teenth century to read ' Fox,' and see pictures 
of flaming piles, and biu^ning oil, and thumb- 
screws. Such things are so entirely out of date, 
how can we be so vulgar as to mention them ! 



LUCY AYLMER. 113 

So Lady Anne threw her shadow on the 
white snow, and passed the church before 
Robert came out, and picking up his carpet 
bag, made his way to the Manor House. 
November was not quite finished, and yet 
last night some snow had fallen, pretty 
heavily too, and settled among the branches 
and on the few sear and withered leaves, 
winter had not yet fetched away, and on 
the hedges and the turnip fields, and the high 
road where Lady Anne Erresford had taken 
her shadow about ten minutes before to the 
village. The sky was leaden and heavy all 
round, except towards the west, where the sun 
red andglaring was strugghng to be seen, 
and shedding tears about it, in the shape of 
little golden streaks below. It was just three, 
the clock up in the tower of Saint Walburga 
said so, and the clock over the Squire's 
stables confirmed it, and aU the vrind there 
was in the leaden air brought three chimes 
from Castle St. Agnes ; Robert paused a 
moment to listen to their sounds, and to con- 
sult his Avatch, and that too told the same tale ; 
he was just resuming his walk, when first 
the sounds of footsteps, and then a laugh, 



114 LUCY AYLMER. 

reached his ear, he stopped again and Hstened ; 
but all was silence except the dull sighing of 
the air, a tort of steady, discontented sound, 
which is usually the forerunner of snow, so he 
thought it must be some village children in 
the turnip fields near at hand, or some shep- 
herd boys minding their sheep on the hill-side ; 
but it was neither of these, the voices were 
those of his dear playfellows Maude and Lucy 
Neville, and they sprang out upon him from 
behind a pile of furze and peat w^hich some- 
one had heaped up by the way-side. Oh ! 
what a meeting that was ! — it is difficult to 
say who said the most '' how do you do's !" 
and who shook hands the warmest, except 
that, as usual, Lucy was the quietest, and 
Maude actually danced round and round 
Robert, so that he was obliged to stand 
still 

" Oh you dear old Robert !" said Maude 
after she had made about six pirouettes and 
stopped fairly out of breath ; " we saw yon 
outside the coach, looking like a dear oM 
icicle perched up there — yes ! we saw you, 
though you did not see us, did he Lu ? yes, 
we saw you from the the top of Bushman's 



LUCY AYLMER. 115 

Hill ; . we frightened away all the sheep in 
climbing up, and sent them down into Raven's 
Hollow, that we might be the first to see 
you." 

Robert took off his hat, and laughing, said 
he felt very flattered, and Lucy laughed too, 
but she did not say anything. 

" Come along, children, don't stand here ; I 
declare we shall all freeze into snow men and 
women, if we don't move ; come along, I am 
going to carry this for you, Robert ;" and 
Maude made a dart at his carpet-bag, and 
fairly took it from him. 

" No, now Maude, you shall not carry it, I 
declare this is too bad !" and Robert endea- 
voured to regain his property. 

But Maude darted off full speed, and few 
could equal her in running, so it was not till 
she reached the Manor gates that Robert over- 
took her, then what she called " a little 
fight " ensued, which ended in Robert's con- 
quering. Lady Anne's shadow was crossing 
the path which led from the village to the 
Castle, and she saw the whole scene; the 
meeting, Maude's demonstrative welcome. 



116 LUCY AYLMER. 

her seizure of the bag, the run, the figbt, and 
the capture — Lady Anne did not sigh ; but she 
spoiled her handsome face by frowning, and 
said almost aloud ; " What a choice for 
Cecil to make, and what a priest for Forsted !" 
but no one heard her, not even Lucy, who, 
after attempting to keep up with the runners, 
was forced to abandon the attempt for want 
of breath, and walked on slowly, laughing, 
and enjoying Maude's merriment. Lady 
Anne's shadow almost fell on her, but it did 
not quite, she escaped it this time, though it 
often feU on her afterwards. 

Robert and Maude came back to meet 
Lucy, Maude told her sister she was van- 
quished, and Lucy laughed and said it served 
her right for teasing poor Robert directly he 
came. This was an old trick of Maude's, 
Robert was scrupulously pohte, he could not 
bear ladies to carry even their own parasols 
after the sun was down, and it was Maude's 
delight to attack all his parcels and umbrellas, 
and attempt to carry them herself to shock 
Robert's gallantry. 

" Come, Maude, do be reasonable," said 



LUCY AYLMER. 117 

Robert, as he made Lucy take his arm — they 
used to walk hand in hand, formerly ; but 
Lucy was no longer a little girl. 

" So I am, Robert, very reasonable," replied 
Maude saucily, " what do you wish me to talk 
about?" 

" I want you to tell me how you like 
Cecil Erresford and his sisters, and Lady De 
Walden." 

" Oh ! your cher ami is a model young man ! 
all heart and goodness, never did a wrong 
thing in his life, was the best child in the 
nursery, best boy at school, best man at 
college, and at the age of thirty — is he 
not somewhere thereabouts? — has succeeded 
in being that great bore to naughty people — 
a model !" 

" Come Maude, do not be so satirical !" 
said Robert, "what do you think of him, 
Lucy ?" 

"I like him very much indeed," she 
replied. 

Robert gave a quick glance at Lucy, as 
she spoke and asked, " What do you like in 
him?" 

" I scarcely know, but I think I like every- 



lis LUCY AYLMER. 

thing, he is so kind, so gentle, and yet so 
amusing, I think he must be everybody's 
favourite." 

" So he is," rephed Robert, " and I am sure 
he is your's already, Lucy." 

" Yes," said Lucy quietly, while Maude ex- 
claimed in a teasing, laughing tone, " darling, 
don't you see Robert is jealous ?" 

" No, he is not, Maude," replied Lucy, 
without even blushing ; " I am sure Robert is 
glad we like his friend." 

" Of course I am, little Lu," and Robert 
gently dropping her arm, threw open the 
Manor gates — when they were walking on 
again, Maude asked in an arch tone, " Now 
you have had our opinion of Mr. Erresford, do 
you not want to know what we think of his 
sisters ?" 

" Not if you are going to quizz them as you 
did him." 

" Nonsense, Robert, I did not quizz him ; 
but if you are in love with either of his sisters, 
I will let them alone." 

" Indeed, that I am not," said Robert, 
rather indignantly, 

" Well then ; Lady Anne is a stem, dicta- 



LUCY AYLMER. 119 

torial personage, would make a model nun, 
the only thing she is fit for, and Lady Flora 
is a silly, Aveak girl, very amiable, and dread- 
fully trampled upon." 

" How quick you are, Maude !" said 
Robert, turning to her with rather an ad- 
miring look ; " you always were clever in 
reading characters, yon have described Lady 
Anne capitally — not that she ever dictates to 
me ; but you are too hard on poor Flora, I do 
not think she is ' weak and silly,' though she 
might have become both, from the manner in 
which she has been brought up — her brother 
is quite indignant when he even mentions 
it. 

" Did not her mamma like her ?" asked 
Lucy. 

"No, Lucy, no one did that I can dis- 
cover." 

" Not Mr. Erresford ?" asked Lucy again. 

*' Oh, yes ! but he was scarcely ever with 
her, he lived almost entirely with an uncle, 
till she was grown up, and then poor Lady 
Flora was so much in dread of her whole 
family, that she actually feared him." 

"Do you know, I was afraid of Mr. Eitcs- 



120 LUCY AYLMER. 

ford at first; but not after he had spoken to 
me," said Lucy. 

Again Robert's enquiring look ; but the 
face he gazed at looked calm as usual. 

" Is not Lady Plora going to be married ?" 
asked Maude. 

" Yes, but who told you ?" 

" No one, only she wears a blue ring on her 
left hand, just as Aunt Augusta did two years 
ago, when she was engaged to be married to 
some one who did not have her — but who is 
Lady Flora going to marry ?" 

" Lord Glendowan, a man old enough to be 
her father." 

" Oh, poor thing !" said Lucy, in a sym- 
pathising tone. 

"Does she like him?" enquired Maude. 

" What a strange question to ask !" ob- 
served her sister. 

"Does she, Robert?" repeated Maude. 

"As well as she likes any one," replied 
Robert. 

" She has taken a fancy to darling Lu, and 
wants her likeness," said Maude. 

" Nonsense, dear !" exclaimed Lucy. 

" But it is sense, darling, only no one was 



LUCY AYLMER. 121 

to have known it but ourselves ; but Robert 
can keep a secret." 

" Of course I can/' said Robert, laughing ; 
" but have they returned your call ?" 

"Yes, they came on Monday, that is to 
say, Lady de Walden and starchy Anne. One 
comfort, papa was at home, so he talked to the 
old lady ; starchy Anne was in a fearfully cold 
mood — she sat and looked at me, so I sat and 
looked at her — Lu. did not see them ; she was 
out in the shrubberies, and did not know 
they were come." 

'' Then you have not seen Lady Flora since 
your visit?" 

" No, she called alone, on the Saturday 
before. Papa was at the Branston hunt, and 
we were passing the day with old Lady Fair- 
field, such a tax on one's patience ! but here 
we are !" 

They had arrived at the door of the 
Manor House. Robert let them in as if he 
were quite at home ; the Squire had been the 
only real friend his father had, and all the 
Aylmers had had the run of the jNlanor from 
their childhood, so it was not to be wandered 
at that the young people were on such 

VOL. I. G 



122 LUCY AYLMER. 

familiar terms. The toothless hound slept on 
the door-mat as usual ; but it got up and 
fawned on Robert as he came in, and licked 
his hand. He stroked it very gently, saying, 
" Poor Tawny !" and the tears stood in his 
eyes, for it was his father's favourite dog, and 
almost the only thing he had in his power to 
bequeath to the Squire. Lucy knew of what 
Robert w^as thinking, and she drew Maude 
away to the hall table. Their father was 
from home, they had told Robert so directly 
they met him ; and the Squire had left a note 
for Robert in his large, scrawling hand, which 
the girls gave him when he came up to 
them at the table. The Squire told of a 
pressing hunt, how it was as much as his 
head was worth, if he did not go — he hoped 
Robert would take care of himself : Morris 
would give him the keys of the cellars, and 
he was to choose what wines he Hked ; and 
the girls would be ready, he was sure, to 
"keep up the spirits of the young parson" 
till the squire returned, " till then, make your- 
self jolly. Yours, Phil. Neville." 

" We had your old room prepared for 
you, Robert," said Maude, after he had 



LUCY AYLMER. 123 

finished reading the letter, " but the rain 
came in so dreadfully, that we were obliged 
to have the things moved to the picture room. 
We hope you will not mind, but papa does not 
like having bricklayers in : he says they will 
pull the whole house do\vn. It is one of 
papa's little prejudices," she added, smiling, 
" but we tliink you wiU like your new 
abode." 

" Certainly I shall, dear Maude, it is suf- 
ficient to be in this house to be happy." 

Here Morris, the portly old butler, who had 
come in on the opening of the haU door, and 
was greatly shocked at Miss Neville's exposure 
of their poverty, thought fit to make his 
presence known, and bomng to Mr. Aylmer, 
asked if he had any luggage, and if it should 
be taken to his room. 

*' Good morning, Morris ; no, I have not 
any luggage, only this bag ; you can take it 
up, if you please." 

Morris did so, and looked to see if Robert 
were following. 

"We have ordered the dinner at four, 
Robert ; we would not Jiave it later," said 
Maude, " because we thought you would be 

G 2 



124 LUCY AYLMER. 

hungry." Maude never spoke of herself alone, 
but always said "we." 

" Thank you, Maude, my coach -ride has 
sharpened my appetite. Twenty minutes to 
four ! I will not keep you waiting." He 
followed the important butler, who stop- 
ped at the door of the same room he used to 
occupy, the one Maude said was rendered 
useless by the rain. 

" Not that room, I think, Morris," he ex- 
claimed, as the servant opened the door and 
visions of a bright fire gleamed forth. 

" Yes, if you please, Sir," and Morris went 
in with the carpet-bag. 

" But," said Robert, to whom distant 
prospects of being awoke by an inundation 
from the ceiling, were not agreeable ; '* I 
thought Miss Neville said — " 

" I beg your pardon. Sir, but that's been 
seen to : a trifling hole in the leads was the 
cause. Sir; it has been rectified, and you 
will find no inconvenience. Sir. Young ladies 
always make the most of things — anything 
you want, Sir ?" 

Robert wanted nothing, so Morris took 
himself down stairs to tell his friend, the 



LUCY AYLMER. 1^5 

cook, " how Miss Neville could never hold her 
tongue about nothing V 

Robert gazed from the Avindow, and looked 
far away into the valley, filling fast with mist 
and snow-flakes. 

Maude and Lucy went straight up to their 
green draperied room, and put on some silk 
dresses, to look ' smart ' for Robert's first 
evening with them. They talked and laughed 
all the time they were arranging their toilette. 

Robert could hear their bright young 
voices at his end of the house ; and when he 
came into the drawing-room and found them 
sitting by the fire, Maude with an arm over 
Lucy, he was charmed with their loveliness. 
Robert took the Squire's place at the dinner- 
table, opposite a great sirloin of beef. Maude, 
who was learning to carve, made a great 
splashing of a pair of fowls, to the no small 
discomforture of Morris, who was perpetually 
receiving gravy in his face. Maude's favourite 
dinner was roast-beef and fowls, and she even 
to-day, anticipated Christmas by adding plum- 
pudding, though without its usual adornment 
of evergreen. They talked and laughed more 
gaily over their dinner than Lady Anne 



126 LUCY AYLMER. 

Erresford had done in a life- time ; laughter 
not agreeing with her temperament. It 
must be confessed some of the merriment was 
at her ladyship's expense, for during Morris's 
exit, Maude jumped up to imitate Lady 
Anne's bow, and Lady Anne's walk, and 
everything the giddy girl had remarked in 
' Starchy Anne,' as they had christened her 
among themselves. 

After dinner, they all sat round the draw- 
ing-room fire, talking of Forsted, and plan- 
ning what Robert was to do, and they 
arranged excursions for the coming year — 
then Robert asked the girls to sing, and they 
gave him all his favourite songs ; ' Auld 
Robin Grey,' ' Partant pour la Syrie,' and 
many others from their mother's old book. 
But, last of all, Lucy sung ' All that's bright 
must fade :' she had learnt it by heart from 
her Aunt Augusta's music. It was not 
strange that when she had finished, Maude 
and Robert sighed, because the song is a 
triste one. Maude said she liked it, and yet 
she did not : it was pretty, but too solemn for 
her, and she made Lucy come away from the 
piano and take her old seat by the fire, and 



LUCY ATLMER. 127 

then they fell again into their former conver- 
sation about the future, what they would do 
when they grew old, and what they would 
do when so many years had rolled over their 
heads. There was plenty of merriment in some 
of their plans — at last, Maude said, " In five 
years more I shall be two- and- twenty, and you 
wiU be just of age, darHng Lu. I wonder 
what we shall all be doing, exactly this day 
five years ? — perhaps I shall be sitting by 
this very old chimney corner, embroidering 
Christmas slippers for papa ; and you, darling, 
why, you will be married long before that, 
I know ; you are such a darling, everybody 
will be wanting you !" 

"Oh, don't Maude, dear!" said Lucy, 
blushing. 

" You have not asked me what I should 
like to be doing this day five years ?" said 
Robert. 

" Well, Robert ?" asked Maude. 

" Why, sitting by the Vicarage fire, with 
my wife," he replied. 



128 LUCY ATLMER. 



CHAPTER VI. 

Yet even in youth companionless I stood 
As a lone forest bird midst ocean's foam. 



HEMANS. 



Up a great many flights of stairs at the very 
top of a side- wing of the Castle, unapproach- 
able from the other passages and landings, and 
reached only by its oAvn turreted staircase, 
was a wide lofty room — a bow window at one 
end, and three windows at the side, large 
spacious windows, seeming placed there pur- 
posely to invite the light which came pouring 
in ; and what did the light reveal ? A collection 
of the queerest, quaintest furniture that ever 
was seen ; such a melange of ancient tables and 
venerable chairs, that at first sight it seemed 
like stepping into an old curiosity shop. 
Perhaps the most remarkable antiquities were 



LUCY AYLMER. 129 

the tapestried window curtains, whose colours 
had so faded and blended one with the other, 
that the only objects discernible out of a large 
scripture piece, were a gigantic Pharoah's 
daughter, her head nearly touching the ceiling, 
while her feet dangled on the ground, and a 
yellow little Moses in a crimson ark of bul- 
rushes. Beneath these wonderful curtains, 
stood a dark oak table, dim and unpolished and 
supported by four grim lions, rendered more 
grim-looking, perhaps, from the loss of all the 
prominent features of their countenances ; 
one being bereft of a nose, another of a cheek, 
and so on : it was a marvel how the heavy 
table got up those narrow stairs, if it was 
raised by pulleys, no wonder the grim hons 
suffered in the affray. Quainter still was an 
old sideboard, also under guardianship of the 
feline tribe ; and yet more quaint were number- 
less old chairs, so infirm, so moth-eaten, and so 
unique, that, take each one separately, and it 
was a study in itself. And curious too was the 
wide fire-place, where wood burnt upon dogs, 
burnt, and smouldered, and charred, and yet 
the room was never warm, so a small stove had 
been placed in a recess, and from thence the 

G 3 



130 LUCY AYLMER. 

heat came on the frosty morning when Lady 
Flora Erresford spread out her painting 
materials above the mutilated lions. 

There was a variety of little cups, and a 
variety of little jars, filled with divers colours, 
and divers pieces of cardboard, paper, pencils, 
and rulers, in short, everything requisite for 
the delicate process of likeness taking ; every- 
thing, even to the face to be taken — the quiet, 
happy face of Lucy, who sat before her in a 
carved high-backed chair, her bonnet and 
shawl off, her hands crossed on her lap, and 
her smooth, fair hair shining in a bright sun- 
beam that strayed into the room on purpose 
to make Lucy a crown. 

Lucy tried to keep her face composed, 
though romping, laughing Maude, who hung 
over the back of her chair, almost made her 
break forth into a mirth that would have 
spoiled Lady Flora's touches. Lady Flora 
went to work earnestly and nervously, with her 
old persuasion that she should not succeed, 
though longing to do so ; and in this she was 
not changed since her childhood. It was a 
great pleasure to her to make a sketch of Lucy's 
winning face, in which, though Lady Flora 



LUCY AYLMER. 131 

did not know it, the beauty rested entirely in 
the innocence and repose of the expression, 
and not in the correctness and perfection of 
feature. 

" Miss Neville, would you mind moving 
from the back of your sister's chair ; you cast 
rather a shade?" said Lady Flora. 

Maude danced round to Mora's side. " That 
looks as if it meant to be like Lucy, you have 
just the wave in the hair — will it take long to 
finish?" 

" Yes, some time," Flora answered. " I 
intend to try a pencil sketch, and if it succeeds, 
to make a painting of it to hang up in my 
room." 

" Are you going to make a patron saint of 
Lucy ?" asked Maude laughing. 

Lady Flora smiled ; "I shall place it where 
I can often see it." 

"Do you keep a portfolio?" asked Maude. 

" Yes, just a few sketches ; you will find 
them in the chiffonier — ^they are not worth 
looking at ; but, perhaps, you will take them 
to another table, there are so many shadows 
to-day." 

Maude opened the great chiffonier, and 



132 



LUCY AYLMER. 



dragged out a large portfolio. She sat on the 
floor near the table, and resting it half against 
a chair, and partly against her lap, commenced 
turning over the pictures which were all care- 
fully covered with tissue paper, and neatly 
mounted, which Lady Mora said was her own 
doing. 

The few first were large water-colour 
sketches of the neighbourhood of her solitary 
home in Essex. Then came some figure draw- 
ings of French peasantry, all showing exquisite 
taste and colouring ; after these, there were 
several little drawings wrapped up in paper, 
and marked " miscellaneous. " Maude asked 
if she might open them, and Flora replying in 
the affirmative, Maude ranged them one by 
one on a chair before her. 

The first was inscribed " My brother. " It 
was not Cecil Erresford, but a handsome, 
invalided-looking young man, with weary eyes 
and a sad brow, but passive and gentle, and 
pleasing to contemplate. Maude held this in 
her hand a long time, easily guessing it was 
the young Earl. Another which charmed 
Maude excessively, was a beautiful, gentle- 
looking woman, with love and sunshine in the 



LUCY AYLMER. 133 

face ; yet it was not young, and the liair was 
tinged with silver, and a few Hnes strayed 
about the soft mouth — round the margin. 
Maude read traced in a dehcate hand, " Drawn 
in a bitter hour of neglect, as an ideal of what 
I thought my mother to be." 

A companion to this, was a brilliant, beaute- 
ous girl, with long, long, glossy hair, and a 
face like an angel — so lovely, that Maude in- 
voluntarily kissed it. She saw written under- 
neath — " My sister, as she appeared to me in 
a dream " — but how different was the Lady 
Anne from this ! Mau le wrapped it up very 
carefully, but it fascinated her so much that 
she was obliged to take it out again and again, 
before she closed the portfolio ; but there was 
more to see yet — two angels, fair and winged, 
mounting up to the skies, where some cherubs 
were looking down on them. 

Maude thought, what an elegant mind 
Lady Mora must have to originate such things ! 
Last of all came a paper marked, " Sketches 
of a crowd " — and they were very amusing ; 
there were men and women — girls and boys — 
beggars and soldiers — tumblers — policemen — 
gentlemen — in short, a melange of character 



184 LUCY AYLMER. * 

very cleverly pourtrayed. Maude was deeply 
engrossed in these, and Lady Flora was pro- 
gressing successfully in her work — when a 
sudden exclamation from Maude caused an 
uneven line down her drawing — it was a loud 
ejaculation of " Oh, here is Uncle Archer T' 

Of course, Lady Flora turned round, and 
so did Lucy, almost expecting to see her uncle 
before her ; but instead, Maude held up a small 
picture, and called out again, " actually it is 
Uncle Archer ! Lady Flora, I did not know 
you were acquainted wdth him ?" 

The colour mounted to Lady Flora's cheeks 
as she said hurridly, " Is that like your uncle ? 
It is a sketch I took from a window when I 
was looking at the Lord Mayor's Show last 
year. A gentleman stood a long time in the 
street below among the crowd. I brought him 
in among my sketches, but I assure you, I 
had no idea who it was." 

" Then it was Uncle Archer," replied Maude, 
twirling the drawing in her fingers, and look- 
ing in surprise at Lady Flora's frightened, 
troubled expression. 

" I stretched it among the others, and 
coloured it afterwards," repeated Lady Flora, 



LUCY AYLMER. 135 

as with the utmost patience she removed the 
disfiguring mark from the card-board before 
her. 

Lucy looked very much as if she should 
like to get up and see the picture Maude was 
holding to the light ; but on no account would 
she disoblige Lady Flora, so she sat still, in 
the same position. 

" How very odd !" exclaimed Maude, as 
she brought the likeness, and laid it on Lucy's 
lap, " now darling, is not that the very image 
of Uncle Archer? I wish papa could see it." 

" I would rather not," said Lady Flora, 
hurriedly, " no one knows I have taken these 
sketches, and I do not wish any one besides 
you to see them." 

" What a pity !" remarked Maude, " they 
are so amusing and clever, I am sure every one 
would like them." 

" Oh, nobody ever likes anything I do !" 
was Lady Flora's short reply. 

"That must be fancy. Lady Flora," said 
Maude laughing. 

" I msh it were," she answered gloomily ; 
" but you, who have been always loved and 
encouraged, cannot possibly understand my 



136 LUCY AYLMER. 

feelings. You do not know what it is to be 
found fault with by the ones you looked to 
for approbation !" Lady Flora sighed deeply, 
then looking up at Lucy, to catch the ex- 
pression of her mouth, she saw a gentle 
glance of surprise, w^iich made her feel 
ashamed of the betrayal she had made of her 
sorrowful, bitter thoughts. She gazed intently 
at her picture for a moment, then, as if on 
second thought, she raised her eyes with a 
smile that gave a touching, pleading expres- 
sion to her face — it was a smile such as that 
which had first captivated Lord Glendowan. 
" I dare say you think me very silly,'"' Lady 
Flora said. 

" Oh, no ! I do not," Maude replied, " only 
I am sorry if you are unhappy." 

" I am not unhappy, at least I ought not to 
be, but I shall never be like other girls, I 
feel that — " she paused a moment, then 
added, " I wish I were you, Lucy." 

" Do you ?" said Lucy smiling. 

" Oh, yes — very much ! I wished this, 
directly I saw you. I should think your life 
has always been very bright and smooth, has 
it not, Lucy ?" 



LUCY AYLMER. 137 

Lucy looked a little sui'prised, as she re- 
plied : 

" Yes Lady Flora, I have always been very 
happy." 

" I wish," said Lady Flora, " that you 
would let me spend the morning with you ; 
some day when your papa is out, and you are 
quite alone, then I could bring my pencils 
with me, and go on with the sketch." 

" We should enjoy it very much, indeed," 
said Lucy, and Maude added, " we should 
have asked you ourselves, only we did not 
know if you would like to come." 

"Yes, I should," Lady Flora answered, her 
face brightening ; but I will not keep you 
sitting any longer, Lucy. I am sure you must 
be tired." 

Lucy was not tired, she would sit longer if 
Lady Flora pleased ; but Lady Flora did not 
wish it, and Lucy rose, and looked at the first 
likeness of herself. Of course it was quite in a 
rough state yet, but there appeared every 
promise of its becoming a successful picture. 

" How clever you are. Lady Flora !" ex- 
claimed Maude, who was looking over her 



]38 LUCY AYLMER. 

sister's shoulder. " I shall be so pleased if it 
turns out like Lucy." 

"And so shall I," replied Lady Flora, 
thoughtfully, as she held up her hour's work 
before her, and seemed for some moments 
quite absorbed in its contemplation. Lucy 
was tying on her bonnet, when Flora gave a 
deep sigh, and then turning round, she said, 
" You must not go yet : it is just luncheon 
time ; I insist on your staying ; besides. 
Mamma will think me inhospitable if I allow 
you to go." 

"It is very kind of you, but we must," 
said Lucy. " Papa is to drive us to Arminster, 
to see a menagerie : we dine quite early, and 
start directly after ; so indeed. Lady Flora, we 
cannot remain any longer." 

" Robert is goinsj with us !" exclaimed 
Maude, joyfully. " I wish you were coming 
also — we ahall be such a merry party ! We go 
in the dog-cart, Lu and I in front with papa, 
and Robert behind with James : we should 
not want James, only for putting up." 

"Then you return to-night?" enquired 
Lady Flora. 



LUCY AYLMER. 139 

"Oh, yes ! papa thinks nothing of twenty- 
miles." 

" But you will be cold in the evening," and 
Lady Flora shivered at the mere idea of the 
long drive in the cold moonhght, along the 
snowy hills and valleys between Arminster 
and Worsted St. Agnes. 

"We never think of the weather," said 
Maude, fastening on her shawl, " Papa tells 
every one Lucy and I are as hardy as Shet- 
land ponies. We never think of such tiresome 
things as colds, do we, sweet ?" 

" Oh, no !" rephed Lucy, and she looked 
at the clear, bright colour in her sister's 
cheeks. 

" If you must really go, may I walk home 
with you ?" asked Lady Mora. 

" It will be quite a treat, if you will," re- 
plied Mande, while Lucy smiled an echo of 
her sister's words. 

Lady Flora left all her colours and draw- 
ings just as they were, assisted Lucy with her 
cloak ; and then, going out after the two 
girls, she locked the door of her room, and 
put the key in her pocket. They all de- 
scended the narrow staircase together ; no one 



140 LUCY AYLMER. 

was in the hall, and Lady Mora went into a 
little room, full of garden costumes, straw 
hats, over-shoes, &c. ; and putting on a thick 
cloak, with a fur border, and an old bonnet, 
they set forth for the Manor. 

It was a gusty, uncertain looking morning 
— patches of clouds, patches of sunbeam in 
the sky, and patches of thaw and patches of 
snow in the fields and park, and on the bam 
tops and trees, where shivering, perishing little 
sparrows shook their feathers with a drooping 
air, and dozed and dreamt delusively of the dog- 
days. The three girls walked on very fast — 
How different they were one from the other ! 
Maude so blithe and gay, Lucy so untroubled 
and happy, and Lady Flora so sad and weary 
of all round — and yet three gentler hearts 
seldom throbbed side by side, only the world 
had gone hardly with the elder, while the 
two younger had been v.isited by its smiles 
alone. 

" Do you go out into society yet ?" asked 
Lady Flora, when they had nearly anived at 
the Manor. 

" No, not to large parties," replied Maude ; 
" but papa says we must soon. I quite dread 



LUCY AYLMER. 141 

his dinners, they must be such formidable 
things — I hope I shall know how to behave. 
Lucy will, because she is such a steady, 
proper little thing ; but I am afraid I should 
laugh when I ought not : it is a habit of mine 
— Robert calls me ' mirthful Maude/ " 

" And what does he call your sister ?" 

" In days gone by, it used to be his ' little 
wife ;' but that was when she was a child. I 
do not think he gives her any name now, 
except 'little Lu,' or when he is very loving, 
he calls her ' Lucy -bird :' he has learnt that 
from papa." 

" I think Lucy is a great pet, are you not, 
dear?" and Lady Flora turned towards her 
with a look of loving interest. 

But J\Iaude did not leave her sister an op- 
portunity of answering : " Oh, Lucy is a 
completely spoilt child I" she said laughing. 
" Papa spoils her, and Robert spoils her, and 
so do I and every one ; it is a part of our 
daily business to spoil Lucy." 

Flora sighed ; it had never been any one's 
delight to spoil her — how different her youth 
from Lucy's ! " I wish you were both coming 



142 LUCY AYLMER. 

to town this spring. Do you think there is 
any chance of it ?" 

" Oh, no !" repHed Maude, " Papa would 
not allow us to go. Our Aunt in London 
often threatens to take us back with her when 
she stays here ; for she says our education is 
very incomplete, and we want to see a little of 
the world." 

" Should you not like it ?" asked Flora. 

" I have not made up my mind yet," re- 
plied Maude. " I should certainly like to see 
London, but I doubt if I should want to 
remain there very long. I fancy it must be so 
formal and disagreeable, always walking in 
the streets." 

Lady Flora smiled. " You would not walk 
much in the streets — ^ladies never do." 

" Then where do people go ?" asked 
Maude. 

" In the streets sometimes, but more often 
in the parks ; and ladies seldom walk in the 
afternoon." 

" Why not ?" enquired Maude, again. 

"I do not know; because it is not the 
custom, I suppose." They were now very close 



LUCY AYLMER. 143 

to the Manor gates, and Lady Flora said, 
" Would you like to visit London, Lucy ?" 

" I would rather remain here, Lady Mora. 
I do not think I should like the bustle and 
noise ; but," she added, " I wish I could sing 
as Aunt Augusta does ; and I should like to 
hear the beautiful music Lady Anne talked 
about." 

" Then you must come to town," said Lady 
Flora, cheerfully, " for it is only there you can 
hear the oratorios my sister spoke of, and the 
beautiful church music." 

Lucy smiled and said, she thought it was 
improbable, and then Maude stopped at the 
gates and exclaimed, " Here we are, you must 
come in, Lady Flora !" 

" No, I must hurry back. I shall think of 
you to-night. Take care of your sister." She 
looked so fixedly at Lucy as to make her 
blush ; then she kissed them both, and stood 
watching them as they went towards the 
house. The north wind whistled round her 
with, a cold, derisive sound ; but she did not 
heed it, for her eyes found a new and dehght- 
ful pleasure in watching those loving sisters. 



144 LUCY AILMEK. 

She looked them out of sight ; but still she 
remained there, with her cloak wrapped closely 
round her slight, bending form. The lofty 
trees sighing over her and pitying her, 
seemed to say, " Plora, poor Mora !" — they 
sighed and sighed, and dropped snowy tears 
on her cloak, great tears which melted and fell 
off to the earth in their great pity for the sad, 
dreary figure which stood beneath them; 
and their low murmurs seemed to say, " ah 
me ! ah me 1" 

" Flora ! Mora !" this was not the wind's 
sigh : a fine, beaming, fatherly face was near 
hers — such a benevolent face ! very glad- 
some, and radiant enough to melt the droop- 
ing trees. 

" You have been standing at least ten 
minutes in this piercing wind, my Flora !" 
and the voice was as benevolent as the face, 
and the hand had a benevolent touch, which 
took hers and laid it softly on his arm. The 
old Earl was dead and gone long ago, and 
slept in a fine mausoleum in the old church- 
yard belonging to the place in Essex, or this 
might have been her father, with his broad. 



LUCY AYLMER. ]45 

powerful figure and handsome middle aged 
countenance so smooth, so untroubled by 
years. 

" I did not know you would return so soon," 
said Flora, shivering as he led her away. 

" The ice was unbearable," he repKed, 
" half snow and half thaw, all in little blocks. 
How cold you are, dear Flora !" he added, as 
he stopped, and unfolding a great plaid shawl 
which hung over his arm — the plaid of his 
clan — wrapped it round her, above the cloak. 
She submitted very passively, and they walked 
on with her arm again through his. 

" You like Mr. Neville's daughters, I think. 
Flora ?" 

" More than T have cared for any girls 
before," she replied, with a warmth unusual 
to her. 

"I am glad you have found friends, my 
Flora !" he said. 

" At last !" and she added, " I do not know 
how long I may keep them." 

The benevolent fatherly face looked at her. 

" Dearest Flora, you must not go back into 
your old, desponding moods." 

VOL. I. H 



146 LUCY AYLMER. 

" I could not help it, Lord Glendowan," 
she replied. 

" Still, Lord Glendowan, Flora !" he said in 
a slightly reproachful tone. " Will you never 
forget the difference of age ?" 

"I do forget it — T forgot it directly you 
bade me do so !" her tone was still despond- 
ing. 

" I think you love me ?" he said in the 
same fatherly tone, that reminded her strongly 
of M^hat the dead Earl ought to have been. 

" You claimed my love, long ago," she re- 
plied softly ; but there was no love or joy in 
her voice. 

"That was a bright day. Flora, when I 
obtained your promise, and it will be a 
brighter still which makes you all my own." 

She did not answer, but the long fringes 
drooped heavily, and the eyes were quite 
hidden. 

" Dearest Flora, something ails you !" Lord 
Glendowan said, so tenderly, so caressingly. 

"Nothing more than usual, Gordon," she 
rephed, and she pronounced his name timidly, 
perhaps reluctantly ; but it sounded music to 



LUCY AYLMER. 147 

his ears. " I told you on that day," she con- 
tinued, " that I had no joy to bring you, that 
my hfe had passed heavily, and that its gloom 
rests on me still — will ever rest on me." 

"Will nothing ever dispel it, Flora?" 
he asked. 

" Nothing, Lord Glendo^Yan, I told you all 
on that first day. I concealed nothing — I told 
you I would give ten thousand loves, even 
such as yours, to win^back a day of my child- 
hood, in which I could remember that my 
mother smiled on me !" 

" Dearest Flora," he said, " the Countess 
is naturally stern and cold, though her heart 
is good." 

" She was never cold to Anne !" the voice 
had a shrilling sadness which said this. 

"Lady Anne is worthy and talented, but 
she is not to be named in the same breath 
with my drooping flower — dear Flora, cease 
to envy her." 

" I never did envy her ; oh ! I would rather 
be myself, my neglected self, than my sister 
Anne, except my mother's blessing !" her 
voice trembled slightly. 

" Your childhood has passed ; she will care 

H 2 



148 LUCY AYLMER. 

for you now," said Lord Glendowan tenderly ; 
" and think how admired and courted you were 
on your first appearance !" 

" And yet how desolate ! You often tell 
me yours was a happy youth, and it has left 
its impress on you now — mine was a desolate 
childhood, and it has left the memory of its 
desolation for ever fixed on my heart/' 

"That dear, over-sensitive heart!" mur- 
mured Lord Glendowan. 

"If it had only been cold or indifferent, I 
could have borne life better ; but, oh, Gor- 
don ! it was torture to me that my mother 
never blessed me, or my sister never twined 
her arms around me, and the brother I could 
have loved was set against me. But he loved 
me in spite of all," she added, warmly; 
" and he told me so at last, but the night I 
knew it, he had a fit, and when it ceased, 
they said he had lost his reason. Lord Glen- 
dowan, I told you I never should be gay !" — 
She tried to keep back her tears, but they 
trembled on the long lashes. 

"Dearest Mora," he said, "you shall be 
what you please. If you are silent, even if you 
heed me not, so long as you are near, I am 



LUCr AYLMER. 149 

happy, but if you smile — oli, Flora, it is 
heaven to me !" 

*' I often wish, Gordon," she murmured, 
in her soft, low tones, that " you had loved 
some one else instead of me, some one who 
would have been all to you, that I cannot be. 
I am a snow-flake, not a sunbeam on your 
path — on everybody's path — even those beau- 
teous sisters are more silent when I am near.'' 

" No — no. Flora, your imagination deceives 
you — you undervalue your precious seK." He 
looked for a smile ; she would have been un- 
grateful had she not responded to his glance. 
A smile brightened her face ; and shaking back 
her head, she said with a sigh, "I am very 
silly to make sorrows out of happiness." 

" How so, dearest Flora?" 

" I looked so long at those lovely sisters, 
that I began to contrast myself with what they 
are ; and instead of enjoying my friends, I was 
making a grief of them — hush ! Gordon, you 
must not chide me, when I seem strange, you 
must remember my childhood !" 

" No, Flora, no ; I will forget it, and you 
shall forget it. * Look not mournfully into 
the Past, it comes not back again. Wisely 



150 LUCY AYLMER. 

improve the Present, it is thine. Go forth to 
meet the shadowy Future with a strong 
heart/ " 

She smiled again, as she said, "If 1 
could ?" 

" Everything is possible," he replied. 

" But mine is not a strong heart," Flora 
murmured. 

" It is tender, true, and loving ; try, and 
you will yet add strength to it !" 

Flora smiled, but she did not try. 



LUCY AYLMER. 151 



CHAPTER VII. 

His face was of that doubtful kind 
That wins the eje, but not the mind. 

ROKEBY. 

It was thawing fast, that was very evident : 
the streets were inches deep in mud and mire, 
and so sHppery, that crossers were every 
moment in danger of falling a prey to the 
wheels of passing omnibuses, all bespattered 
and begrimed with dirty snow ; while drip, 
drip from the projecting eaves — drip, drip, 
drip from the shop fronts, added to the rapid 
increase of mud and discomfort. 

" Get out of the way there !" shouted a 
coachman, from a smart-looking brougham 
turning out of the narrow Chancery Lane into 
Holbom. The coachman had not at all a civil 



152 LUCY AYLMER. 

manner, or he would not have shouted so 
rudely to a gentleman, for it was a gentleman 
of dignified and benevolent mien, who drew 
back to let the fiery horse dash by ; and as it 
dashed on, a face looked through the window, 
a massive, heavy face, with large handsome 
features, and an expression anything but what 
an expression ought to be, — it is easily defined. 
— there was no good in it. It looked suspici- 
ously, distrustingly out at the passers by ; and 
the eyes, deep and artful, met the bright clear 
eyes of the gentleman who was told to get out 
of the way. The proprietor of the brougham 
and the pedestrian, manfully combatting the 
mud, were strangers to each other — entire 
strangers, so they thought nothing more of 
their flying look at the muddy corner of 
Chancery Lane ; and each went his own way, 
one to May-Fair, the other to St. Paul's, to hear 
the morning service. The latter had an uncom- 
mon predilection for music, not a Tractarian pre- 
dilection ; but he loved music for its own sake, 
because it pleased his ear, because it dehghted 
his mind and tastes, and he was known as a 
regular attendant at operas, oratorios ; indeed, 
wherever music was to be heard. He seemed 



LUCY AYLMER. 153 

also to have a predilection for walking, or he 
never would have braved such a state of mud 
and grime ; for, if his purse agreed with his 
looks, he could afford a cab, or even his own 
brougham, like the man with the eagle-eyes, 
who had just passed ; but he liked walking, 
as he did music, for its own sake ; indeed, he 
3;vas rather eccentric, though his eccentricity 
displayed itself in neither dress, air, nor manner, 
as on he went down Holborn Hill to St. Paul's, 
while on dashed the fiery horse, taking the 
smart brougham, the impudent coachman, and 
the proprietor with the eagle eyes, liearer and 
nearer the polite regions of the west. 

There were snow and mud and drippings in 
May-Pair as well as in Holborn, only the 
traffic was not so great ; fiery horse dashed 
down one street into another, which looked 
dismal and black; and the houses had a 
gloomy, threatening aspect, and seemed frown- 
ing at one another in the gloom. There were 
crimson curtains in the drawing-room windows 
of number thirteen ; and a handsome face, 
with dark hair braided and rolled in massive 
coils round her head, looked out from beneath 
them ; and as it looked, it saw fiery horse stop 

H 3 



154 LUCY AYLMER. 

suddenly before the door. The eagle eyes look- 
ed up and met hers ; then the smart brougham 
deposited its proprietor, who, after speaking 
to the coachman, hurried up stairs and stood 
on the hearth-rug by the bright fire. The 
face at the window had retreated, and it rested 
on a snowy hand and elbow, planted on the 
low broad mantelpiece. 

" Thank you for keeping me waiting !" this 
was addressed to the eagle eyes. 

" Not long, Augusta," he pulled out his 
watch from a closely buttoned coat : he had a 
short figure, too short for his massive face, and 
but for the expression which portended no 
good, he would have resembled Napoleon. 

" Not long indeed !" one of the snowy 
fingers with a great many jewels on it, 
pointed to the hands. 

" True, I am late," replied the quick active 
voice. He had been detained on his way 
from Chancery Lane. "My business was 
urgent." He did not look at his sister, but 
up, quite par hasard, at the mirror, and his 
eyes met themselves looking at liim. Archer 
Neville did not like to be looked at in that 
keen, searching way, even by himself, and he 



LUCY AYLMER. 155 

cast his eagle eyes towards the fire : they did 
not gaze at hira there. 

Augusta Neville rang the bell in a hasty, 
Imperious manner, and desired the servant 
who answered the summons, to bring a Brad- 
shaw from the library. 

"The next train, Archer, is at twelve 
o'clock," she said, when slie had consulted the 
time table. 

" Let us go by that, by all means, if you 
are ready," Archer answered. 

" I am always ready," was the short reply. 

The brother looked at her. 

" It was not my fault that I kept you wait- 
ins; : an hom* will make no difference." 

"I am aware it will not," she replied ; "but 
you know I detest waiting : it spoils my tem- 
per. I cannot help it ; you have indulged me, 
Archer, until I have become quite a spoilt 
child." She withdrew her elbow from the 
mantelpiece, hung down her hands and looked 
at them ; they were beautiful, and she was 
quite satisfied with them, — indeed, their con- 
templation appeared to restore her temper. 
" Come, Archer," she said, " you will find 



1*56 LUCY AYLMER. 

breakfast down stairs. I had mine long ago, 
so I will get ready." 

Her brother was musing over something. 
What could it be ? He heard Augusta, how- 
ever, and said, " Very well," and went down 
stairs in a fit of abstraction, and still musing 
on the something. 

Augusta was accustomed to her brother's 
absent moods ; so she heeded him not to-day, 
but commenced the business of robing herself 
in a handsome travelling cloak and furs, and 
a very knowing little Paris bonnet, in which 
employment she was assisted by a small 
coquettish-looking French maid, who appeared 
on Archer Neville's exit, and received final 
directions from her mistress, that damsel never 
accompanying the fair Augusta to the manorial 
home. 

Shortly before twelve, the fiery horse was 
seen urging the smart brougham to the Great 
Western Railway, and sending mud flying 
in all directions on the pavement, to the great 
detriment of passengers' coats. Augusta 
Neville looked from the window and yawned 
at the increasing mud and gloom, and re- 



LUCY AYLMER. 157 

marked on it now and then to Archer, who 
looked very abstracted in a corner, under the 
weight of the something that occupied him in 
May-Fair. 

"We shall not be too early," Augusta 
obsen^ed, still looking out at the mud T\4th 
a shghtly pitying feeling towards pedestrians 

"Holloa !" shouted the coachman, " Holloa ! 
you there, out of the way, can't you !" The 
"you there," to get out of the way, was a 
heavily laden waggon, slowly creeping on its 
monotonous road towards Kilbum. The dri- 
ver, however, paid no attention to the peremp- 
tory shout, but continued doubled up on the 
front seat, his elbows on his knees, and his great 
whip dangling from his hand, while a boy of 
some twelve or fourteen years, walked by the 
side of the four sleek horses, and almost dozed 
as he walked, so weary was he from his journey. 
Another brougham was coming along with a 
coronet on its pannels, and a pair of spirited 
horses in its harness. The coachman was not 
one whit behind Archer Neville's in impa- 
tience, and on he whipped his steeds with the 
fixed determination of passing the smart 
brougham. 



158 LUCY AYLMER. 

" What are you after there ?" shouted the 
peremptory voice of Archer's servant, while 
he swore at the fiery horse and lashed him 
on. The street was narrow, the waggon broad : 
fiery horse was fiery to an extreme, he hated 
the whip, he rebelled under it. Snorting and 
throwing up his proud head, he dashed on, right 
on — and before the boy could turn the sleek 
waggon-horses aside, the wheel of the smart 
brougham became entangled in the wheel of 
the waggon. Then did the coachman swear, 
then did fiery horse kick and plunge, so that 
no one durst approach him ; and the brougham 
rocked as if each instant it would capsize, 
and lie sideways in the mud. In one moment 
Augusta Neville put all the windows down, 
and leant back, her cheeks the least shade 
paler ; but her dark eyes fixed on the pas- 
sionate coachman. Why did Archer's eagle 
eyes look so stern ? Why did such a deadly 
pallor overspread his face ? Why did he call 
upon the coachman to be quiet, to calm his 
horse, to keep his command, and enforce 
each sentence with oaths ? Did he fear being 
dashed to death by an overturn ? Perhaps so ; 
and would it have been better for any one he 



LUCY AYLMER. 159 

had never seen, if he had been dashed to 
death? The horses of the carriage behind 
snorted and foamed with impatience, and 
their heads almost rested against Archer 
Neville's brougham. Augusta as she leant 
back could hear their loud breathing. A 
crowd collected instantly, but no one acted ; 
thin meagre 'prentice boys looked on, and 
would have helped if they had possessed 
strength in their puny arms. Policemen 
looked on, said a great deal, and did nothing 
— stablemen looked on, and told the coach- 
man what to do ; but never offered to assist 
themselves — so the crowd was useless. Who 
pushed a pale 'prentice boy, pushed aside a 
policeman, rushed through the crowd, and 
with giant force seized the foaming horse, 
and with one herculean effort held him down ? 
When once the horse was down, there were 
plenty to come forward and keep him down ; 
plenty to assist the enraged coachman from 
his giddy seat; plenty to help detach the 
wheel ; plenty to open the door, and let out 
the pale, though self-possessed Augusta and 
the infuriated Archer. The waggon moved on 
and the brougham backed, and the coroneted 



160 LUCY AYLMER. 

carriage, with its splendid horses, darted 
quickly by, and was seen no more by the 
crowd. There was a cab hard by, a dirty, 
sickly looking cab, with a rough patched 
looking driver ; and into this Archer put the 
dainty Augusta. His brougham had received 
some damage, the waggon none. The policemen 
would have liked the waggoner to pay damages, 
but Archer was above such mean actions. His 
own coachman, and his own horse, were to 
blame, and none other — though if he had 
wished it, an action could have easily been 
brought against the waggoner, for he was only 
a poor man ! The coachman swore at him 
loudly, violently ; but as he Avas deaf, the 
vile expletives had no effect on him, and after 
awhile the waggon went on its way — and the 
smart brougham went its way too, maimed 
and disfigured, to the coach-builders, and 
Archer soon after arrived at the Great 
Western ; but they lost the twelve o'clock 
train. Before Archer left the crowd, he en- 
quired who first pulled down the horse's 
head, and he learnt that it was a gentleman 
from the brougham with the coronet who 
drove away directly there was further assist- 



LUCY ATLMER. 161 

ance. Augusta would have liked to thank 
him, and so \YOuld her brother, for his life 
was very precious to him ; but the carnage 
had driven fast to the station, and the gentle- 
man had gone somewhere on the Great 
Western Hne, and it was not probable that 
either Ausfusta or Archer would ever meet 

o 

him — why should they ? 

It was growing dark when the brother and 
sister leant back in a cushioned carriage, and 
drawing a railway wrapper round them, gave 
themselves up to the monotony of a journey 
through the quickly gathering dusk of a 
Christmas Eve. As long as there was any- 
thing to see, Augusta saw it ; cottages, hay- 
stacks, orchards, fields, woods indistinct in 
the distance, backed and canopied with mist, 
cold, grey and serpent-like, crawling and writh- 
mg along hedges and ponds ; till aU was dark 
and dim. But still Augusta looked; there 
were Hghted stations, where passengers, muffled 
in wraps, flitted to and fro with -joyous Christ- 
mas faces ; mothers with countenances ex- 
pressing that pride which only mothers can 
wear, and which is beautiful to see ; fathers 
with protecting faces, loving the whole group, 



162 LUCY AYLMER. 

wife and little ones, sheltering them, caring 
for them — and forgetting themselves the 
while. There were jolly farmers at cross- 
country stations making themselves happy 
second-class, and weather-beaten labourers 
contented in the third. There were clerks 
and factory -boys from the town stations, try- 
ing to fancy there was no care on their brow, 
trying to cheat themselves out of the idea 
that they were grown thin and worn since 
last Christmas log burnt on their mother's 
hearth, because they were taking themselves, 
and their little savings to that mother's 
hearth once more, and they wish to gladden 
her with Christmas looks. But who cared 
for the clerks and factory-boys, save their 
mother ? That was enough for them, and they 
dozed in the comfortless third-class, and 
dreamt of a warm fire-side and her smiles, 
and then awoke suddenly, and felt in their 
pockets if the little gift to grace their mother's 
dress were still there, for the purchase of 
which they had forgotten to dine for many a 
day. Augusta looked till she was tired of 
watching flying faces and flying stations, and 
then she leant back and fairly fell asleep till 



LUCY AYLMER. 163 

the cry of Arminster ! disturbed her slumbers. 
There was a great bustle at Arminster. Lots 
of Christmas folks had arrived by the long 
train, bound for divers little villages and 
towns in the neighbourhood ; and the number 
of flys not being adequate to the number 
of passengers, a sort of fight ensued, in which 
the most impertinent and daring carried off 
the flys, or rather, the flys carried off them, 
while the quiet and amiable were left behind, 
and stood staring at each other in a discon- 
solate and woeful manner. A meek man was 
jingling his pockets and calculating the pro- 
bable expense of a night at an inn, when 
Archer Neville brushed by with Augusta on 
one arm, and a bundle of shawls and wrappers 
dangling from the other. He had been detained 
long on the platform, by a hunt for a bonnet- 
box belonging to his sister, which, after a fruit- 
less search in the luggage-van, was found quietly 
reposing under the seat of the carriage, where 
Augusta had placed it with her own fair hands. 
" Wliat ! no carriage here ?" exclaimed 
Archer in a tone of surprise, as they passed 
out of the station gates. A man who was 
standing by informed him in broad Somerset 



164 LUCY AYLMER. 

dialect, in which the words seemed flattened 
in the middle and terminated in sharp points 
at the edges — that a carriage had been waiting 
two hours for a gentleman and lady, and had 
gone away after the train came in wdth chance 
folks to Branstone. 

" But there are other flys surely to be had ?" 
said Augusta, in a peremptory manner. 

The man doubted it in his broad Somerset 
brogue. There was a conjuror, he said, at 
Sleebury, " and folks was gone to see it." 
Augusta ejaculated " Absurd !" maintained 
there must be flys, insisted on despatching a 
boy to ascertain, a bright Somerset boy, who 
returned with a statement corroborating the 
first. There was nothing to be done but to 
walk to the nearest inn, which possessed a 
ponderous sign of King George, very vulgar, 
and very red in the face, with such a broad 
grin, that it corresponded rather with the jolly 
landlord, than his Majesty. It was a raw 
night ; the thaw had changed into a hard frost ; 
and Augusta slipped along the narrow streets, 
holding fast by Archer's arm. The town looked 
deserted ; " folks," as the man said, " had gone 
to Sleebury ;" and the town seemed dark after 



LUCY AYLMEU. ] 65 

the metropolis, for the gas was veiy faint, and 
the town looked cold too, for the thaw had not 
gone on so fast as in London, and there was' 
plenty of snow still on the house-roofs, and 
even in the streets. Archer and his sister 
turned under a great gateway in High Street. 
There was a row of parlour doors on one side 
and office doors on the other ; and iron safes 
hung on the walls ; straight on little lights 
, glimmered, and horses neighed in their stalls ; 
and King George swung in his sign and 
grinned dovvn upon the whole. A very lady- 
like landlady in weeds appeared from her own 
parlour, and after a few enquiries ushered 
them into their parlour. A rusty Turkey 
carpet was on the floor, and a bad fire 
burned in a straight, high grate. Two faint 
tallow candles flickered and quivered on a 
square table full of yellow newspapers, bearing 
a strong odour of tobacco. There was an an- 
cient four-legged piano, covered with salt-cellars 
and an immense parade of mustard-cruets, with 
bone spoons Avell smeared, protruding forth, 
seeming to have no other object than to entrap 
unwary flies — there was a sideboard with 
corresponding ornaments, a horse-hair sofa 



1G6 LUCY AYLMER. 

and cliairs. Prints of queens in short waists 
and strange coiffures, in mahogany frames 
carefully covered with yellow gauze, looked 
condescendingly and kindly from the walls, 
evidently rejoicing in the protection of the 
royal personage outside. Augusta sat down 
on the horse-hair sofa and remarked all these, 
particularly the mustard-cruets, while Archer 
enquired vainly for some conveyance to take 
them to Porsted ; and then Augusta, in. 
despair, ordered some refreshments. 

" This is tiresome," she exclaimed, as the 
door closed after the landlady, who had come 
for orders, " how disappointed Phil and the 
girls Avill be !" 

" And uneasy !" added Archer. 

Augusta did not reply, she was glancing 
round the room again. 

"Archer !" she exclaimed, after a long pause. 
" How strange this room makes me feel ! I 
could fancy myself once more a child ; all so 
unchanged from the days when I sat on my 
father's knee by this very fire." There was 
almost a pathos in her voice as she spoke. 

Archer drew very near the fire and warmed 
his hands, and said — " I could not feel young 



LUCY AYLMER. 167 

again ;" and his looks agreed with his words. 
There was no youth — none of its trust and 
purity in him. 

" But I do feel young," rejoined Augusta ; 
" but how changed since those days, then, the 
little child in the grey cloak, now, a courted 
London woman — and yet the little child in 
the grey cloak was the happier — oh, much 
happier ! I would give all my beauty to feel 
again one hour of the child's delight on my 
first return from school ; when I counted the 
mustard-pots on the piano, and thought those 
execrable prints fine engravings." 

" That was a long time ago," observed 
Archer ; and glancing at his sister, he added, 
" I thought liondon and its attractions had 
obliterated all those ' Lang syne ' days from 
your memory ?" 

" You thought wrong of me. Archer, as 
you often do," she replied. She was stooping 
over the fire with her eyes fixed on the grey 
smoke, and little gassy coals sticking to the 
bars and making angry, discontented sounds. 

" You are evidently annoyed at the prospect 
of passing the night here," said Archer. 

" I am," she replied. " You know I am not 



168 LUCY AYLMER. 

accustomed to be disappointed. What shall I 
do in this inn with no maid, and yet all the 
bore of unpacking ?" 

" Shall I go and enquire again if there is 
anything to be procured to convey us to the 
Manor ?" 

"Do, Archer ; find any thing, even an open 
vehicle. You know I am strong, and not 
afraid of cold." 

"But it is late and the frost is fearful," 
Archer hesitated as he held the door handle in 
his liand. 

" The frost will not kill me, Archer !" was 
Augusta's short reply. 

Her brother looked at her, the old, inquisitive 
look, as if he longed to fathom her thoughts ; 
and he then disappeared into the ^tone- 
flagged yard. A groom, in green livery, was 
loitering about smoking, and Archer, slipping 
on the icy pavement, fell against him. Archer 
instantly apologised, as he recovered his 
footing, " No harm done. Sir," the man re- 
plied touching his hat. 

" The state of the roads must be dreadful," 
said Archer, in a hopeless tone. 

" Bad enough, indeed. Sir !" was the reply, 



LUCY AYLMER. 169 

" but frost or no frost, my horses have twenty 
good miles to go before the night's out." 

" Twenty miles !" exclaimed Archer, " whose 
servant are you ?" 

" My Lady De Walden's, Sir," and the man 
knocked the ashes rather consequentially from 
his cigar. 

"Who is going to Castle St. Agnes to- 
night ?" asked Archer. 

" Mr. Erresford and my Lord Glendowan. 
They came down by the five o'clock train, and 
have been kept here by calling on Judge 
Harper : business about the estate. Sir, I 
believe," added the communicative servant. 

Archer walked away disconsolately ; the 
wind howled under the archway, cold, chill, 
and drear, as the wind does after a thaw ; it 
perfectly cut Archer's face, and sent the tears 
chasing each other down his cheeks. Archer 
had a habit of swearing when he was angry, 
and he put it into practice now, as he hurried 
from inn to inn enquiring for a carriage, 
pursued by the merciless cold which actually 
followed his fingers into his pockets, and stole 
down the upturned collar. His search was aU 
in vain. The De Walden Arms, the Plough, 

VOL. I. 1 



170 LUCY AYLMER. 

the Castle, and Green Dragon were all bereft 
of flys or any other civilized mode of convey- 
ance. The Blue Boar alone possessed both a 
carriage and horses comfortably housed in 
their stables; but the un amiable beast re- 
fused, for love or money, to send horses 
tvy^enty miles, that iron-bound night. It V7as in 
vain swearing at the Blue Boar, whose white 
tusks gleamed menacingly down upon him ; 
and Archer retraced his steps down High 
Street, afraid to report his ill-success to his 
imperious sister. He gazed abstactedly 
beneath a lamp post, wondering why he in 
common with so many bowed before 
Augusta as a superior being; and when, 
after this thought, he lifted up his eyes, they 
met the same benevolent eyes he had seen at 
the corner of Chancery Lane, when he was 
ensconced in his comfortable brougham. 
Archer wished himself there now, indeed he 
did ! The very benevolent eyes looked at him 
as they passed, though the face was so 
covered up in wraps as to be nearly hidden ; 
and so was a certain other face, which went 
by at the same time. Archer Neville felt a 
kind of twinge as the two passed him. 



LUCY AYLMER. 171 

Could it be that the uprightness and goodness 
of their look, caused him to draw unpleasant 
comparisons ? Perhaps it was. He walked 
hastily back to the George ; and the two tall 
men, with their plaids folded closely around 
them, entered the inn yard at the same time. 
Suddenly it occurred to Archer that they 
must be Lord Glendowan and Mr. Erresford, 
and he was right. The grooms touched their 
hats as they passed, and so did the ostler and 
boots : the latter accosted Archer with the 
question : 

" Found one, Sir ?" 

" No," said Archer abruptly, " I must give 
up my journey to-night." 

" There is a party there going to Forsted," 
suggested boots. 

" I know it," replied Archer, as he put his 
hand on the parlour door ; but, before he 
could open it, Cecil Erresford courteously 
asked : 

" Did I understand rightly, that you wish 
to go to Eorsted to-night ?" 

" I should prefer a night's lodging here," 
rephed Archer, " but I have a sister with me, 
who is anxious to arrive at the Manor House 



172 LUCY AYLMER. 

this evening ; however, as no flys are to be 
obtained either by bribes or threats, she must 
give up her journey." 

" My carriage will start for Forsted in a 
quarter of an hour, and it will be a great 
pleasure to me, if Mr. and Miss Neville will 
take advantage of it," said Cecil. " My name 
is Erresford ; I have the pleasure of being ac- 
quainted at the Manor, and have heard of 
your expected arrival. Mr. Neville and the 
young ladies are most anxious to receive you, 
and they must not be disappointed — can Miss 
Miss Neville be soon ready." 

Archer Neville replied that his sister could ; 
thanked Mr. Erresford ; feared they would 
be a bore, &c. ; and in a quarter of an hour 
from that time, it came to pass that Archer 
found himself talking famiharly with Lord 
Glendowan, while the splendid Augusta 
Neville was leaning back in the travelling 
carriage, enjoying a tete-a-tete with Cecil 
Erresford. In this famihar converse, it oc- 
cured to Augusta to mention their morning's 
disaster, and then she learnt, to her great 
surprise, that it was to Cecil they owed their 
preservation from further accident. He it was, 



LUCY AYLMER. 173 

who had rushed out of his brougham to 
render the needful assistance. Of course 
both Augusta and Archer were loud in their 
thanks and expressions of gratitude; and 
pleasant was the drive that cold, frosty night 
from Arminster to Castle St. Agnes, where 
the carriage deposited Lord Glen do wan and 
Cecil Erresford, before conveying Archer and 
his sister to the Squire's home. 



174 LUCY AYLMER. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

But thou, — what dost thou here, 
In the old man's peaceful hall ? 

MACATJLAY. 

"Better late than never!" so said the 
Squire as he stood close by the hall door, and 
putting his stout arm around his sister, 
saluted her on either cheek. 

" Oh, Aunt Augusta !" exclaimed the bright 
cheery-tones of Maude's voice, " Lucy and T 
thought no less horrors than that you had been 
robbed and murdered by the way ! — Come into 
the warm, your must be frozen and wearied to 
death by this time! Come papa, release Auntie!" 

No sooner had the Squire done this, than 
Maude flew towards her Aunt, and admin- 
istered so many kisses, that Miss Neville was 



LUCY AYLMER. 175 

obliged in self-defence to cry out; "Oh, 
Maude, you overpower me !" — so Maude 
desisted, and left room for Lucy, who 
much more gentle in her greetings, seemed 
rather to expect than bestow an embrace. 
Then when all these welcomings were gone 
through, Aunt Augusta was led by Maude 
into the dining-room, every comer of which 
was lighted by a roaring wood fire piled half 
way up the chimney ; and by this fire Maude 
drew a great elbow chair, in which the fathers 
and grandfathers of the Nevilles had been 
wont to sit, and placing her Aunt there, with 
her feet on a stool, exclaimed triumphantly ; 
" now Auntie, don't you feel at home ?" 

" Most certainly I do, Maude, as much at 
home as I ever shall feel." 

Maude looked pleased. She regarded her 
Aunt's entree as a kind of inauguration on 
her part, very successfully performed, and in 
her restless activity, busied herself with remov- 
ing her Aunt*s furs. 

" You look as blooming as ever, Maude," 
said her Aunt ; " come Lucy, do let me hear 
you speak." 

" Lucy is so overcome with joy, you see, 



176 LTJCY AYLMER. 

Auntie, that speech fails her !" laughed 
Maude." 

" Not exactly," replied Lucy smiling. " Are 
not you very tired. Aunt Augusta?" 

" No Lucy, not now. I was ennuyee, indeed, 
when I reached Arminster, but a very agreeable 
companion quite took away from the monotony 
of twenty miles of darkness." 

'' A very agreeable companion, Auntie !" 
echoed Maude. 

''Ay! what lady feels dull after twenty miles' 
tete-a-tete with a handsome young gentleman?" 
said the merry mischievous voice of the Squire, 
who came in unobserved, and laid his hand on 
the back of his sister's chair. 

" Still as absurd as ever, Phil ?" said 
Augusta, while both the nieces went forward 
to welcome their Uncle, who had remained 
behind to see after his sister's numerous boxes 
and parcels. 

" How fresh and charming the girls look !" 
Augusta continued, when they were engrossed 
with their Uncle. 

*' I will back them against any two in the 
county, ay, or any two in England," said the 
Squire heartily ; "they are a bonnie pair." 



LUCY AYLMER. 177 

Augusta laughed. " I look forward to the 
day when they will grace my drawing-room/' 
she said. 

" Fiddle de dee !" exclaimed the Squii'e, 
" don't talk about taking them to London. I 
say it is a bad place for girls — mine thrive in 
the country, and there let them stay !" 

" I despair of your ever giving up yom- old 
prejudices, Phil," said his sister. "London 
has not harmed me." 

" No, but it has kept you a spinster 1" 
replied the Squire, with a mischievous smile. 

Augusta disdained to be angry ; nay, she 
even laughed as she said ;" " oh, soft, Phil, 
whom should I have married here ?" 

" Lots of people ! — you might have been 
mistress of any place in the country, if you 
had not buried yourself in that smoke-dried 
city !" 

" Do not talk about the city, Phil, it is 
positively barbarous ! I never lived in the 
city in my life — I hope you do not propound 
such absurdities at the Castle ?" 

"Don't I?" said the Squire. "When you 
and I go together to pay our respects to my 
Lady Countess and her noble daughters, you 

I 3 



178 LUCY AYLMER. 

see if I don't startle them all, by what you 
call ' absurdities ' — and to come to the point, 
what is London but a city?'* 

" I shall not argue with you : it is worse 
than useless," replied Augusta, sinking her 
head back against the cushions. "Tell me, 
Phil, what have you been doing with yourself 
since last Christmas ?" 

" Lor, my dear, why you have given me a 
task to account for myself through a whole 
year ! I must consult my almanack and sport- 
ing calendars." 

" But surely, Phil, you have other news 
besides reckonings of slain hares and pheasants 
to tell one ? I want to know how the Forsted 
folks thrive ; who are dead, and who married — 
and so on." 

" OldPerrers is under the sod ; here is news 
for you at a minute's notice." 

" But very stale, I am afraid," said Augusta 
smiling ; " Maude and Lucy's letters gave 
every particular, besides every obituary in 
every paper announcing his death — and so you 
have young Aylmer as his successor — how 
does he comport himself ?" 

" A good fellow, but does not know his own 



LtCY AYLMER. 179 

mind ! — preached a rum sermon his first 
Sunday — such a one as made all the folks 
stare — He said pretty plain and proper things 
first, then, all of a sudden, he seemed afraid 
of what he had said, and began to qualify it : 
his winding-up w^as a flat contradiction to the 
beginning — pon my word, I could not make 
head or tail out of it ! — Erresford brought 
him here, and Erresford was vexed, you might 
see that by his looks, though, of course, he said 
nothing. Why, even my girls, who were longing 
to praise their pet parson's sermon, were obhged 
to hold their tongues — they say Erresford's 
elder sister was mightily pleased, and stopped 
behind to shake hands with his reverence in 
the churchyard, and commend his performance, 
and I can fancy it, for she is a contradictory 
thing, and hkes nothing other people do." 

" You must find Mr. Erresford's family nice 
neighbours," said Augusta, when the Squire 
had delivered himself of this long speech. 
" How do the girls get on at Castle St. Agnes ?" 

"Better than I thought they would," re- 
pUed the Squire ; " the youngest sister. Lady 
Elora, I think they call her, seems to have 
taken quite a fancy to them. She talked about 



180 LUCY AYLMER. 

coming to spend a morning here, but my Lord 
Glendowan, her ladyship's lover, a harmless, 
fatherly sort of a personage, has been down 
here dangling after her ; and I suppose she has 
found it impossible to tear herself away." 

" I have been already introduced to the 
young lady's futur then, for he was also our 
travelling companion from Arminster — but 
have you not received an invitation to the 
Castle ?" said Augusta. 

" Oh yes ! we have been asked twice to 
dinner, but I was engaged both times, and the 
girls could not go alone." 

"What a pity!" said Augusta. "A little 
society would do them good." 

" We shall have plenty of it now you are 
here, especially as you have already won Cecil 
Erresford's heart." 

"Exactly so," replied Augusta, "and per- 
haps Mr. Aylmer will solemnize the ceremony 
gratis on account of past favours." 

" Very good, very good," laughed the 
Squire. Morris here brought in the supper 
tray, with sundry smoking good things, very 
savoury to the nose and agreeable to the 
taste. 



LUCY AYLMER 181 

" Girls, I say, girls, where are you?" shouted 
the Squire. 

The girls were not very far off. Their voices 
were heard in the hall, where, late though the 
hour, Maude was proudly shoeing off the 
Christmas decorations to her uncle, and hear- 
ing from him the news, the accident to his 
carriage and his fortunate meeting with Mr. 
Erresford at Arminster. They came into the 
dining-room at their father's summons, which 
was a relief to Archer, who had not one 
feeling in common with his artless young 
nieces. 

" Well, Archer !" exclaimed the Squire, clap- 
ping his brother somewhat heartily on the 
shoulder ; " welcome, old fellow, to the manor 
again ! What not hke the fire ? I should have 
thought it was the best friend you could have 
such a night as this." 

"Archer always keeps from the fire, it 
is such wretchedly bad taste," observed Au- 
gusta. 

" Cold taste, you mean," said the Squire, 
*' but never mind, sit where you like — every 
one to his taste, Maude will finish it — the old 
lady's cow, you know, eh, Maude ?" 



182 



LUCY AYLMER. 



" Nonsense, papa," said Maude laughing, 
" uncle Archer, I am coming over to take care 
of you." ' 

"And my quiet little Lucy shall take care 
of me," said her aunt ; " and so Lucy, my 
child you have got new friends at Forsted?" 

" Yes," replied Lucy, " Castle St. Agnes 
and the parsonage are filled now." 

" If Mr. Erresford's sisters resemble him- 
self, they must be very agreeable people," said 
Atigusta. 

" It was the funniest thing in the world 
your coming from Arminster with Mr. Erres- 
ford. You never saw him before, did you, 
Auntie ?" asked Maude. 

" Never, to my recollection," replied Miss 
NeviUe, " though he seems to remember play- 
ing hide-and-seek with me at the keeper's 
lodge in St. Agnes woods." 

"A good memory for the beautiful!" re- 
marked the Squire. 

Augusta decidedly thought herself beautiful, 
so her smile was not one of bashfulness, but 
complacency. 

" What did you find to talk about all the 
way ?" asked Maude. 



LUCY AYLMER. 183 

" Sundry sweet things, that you know no- 
thing about yet, missey," said the Squire. 

" No, but really Auntie, what did you 
say?" persisted Maude, who was not to be 
daunted. 

"A httle of everything — frost and snow, 
town and country, old times and new times — 
there, Maude, I hope you are satisfied ?" said 
her aunt. 

"And did you and Erresford agree on 
many subjects ? I should fancy not, eh, Au- 
gusta?" asked the Squire. 

" Oh, I make a point of differing. No con- 
versation is worth anything in which everyone 
coincides," replied Augusta, carelessly : " it 
bores me when people will adopt my opinions 
from motives of politeness." 

" But you do not surely mean that people 
tell stories out of pohteness ?" exclaimed 
Maude. 

" My dear child, you are very innocent; 
wait till you have seen a little of the world, 
and then you will find out many harmless little 
evasions are used for expediency." 

*' Then if the world is so horrid as you 
represent, I am sure I do not want to see it," 



184 LUCY AYLMER. 

replied the straight-forward Maude, a curl 
expressive of contempt on her proud lip. 

" Silly child!" said Augusta, in a patronizing 
tone, " half people say in everyday conversa- 
tion they do not mean ; for instance, when 
people call whom you hate to see, and you say 
how glad you are they are come — is not that 
a little evasion ? and in the same way, when 
you are not at home to people you do not 
choose to admit." 

" Then you tell untruths, that is all," said 
Maude, " and I despise people who do it." 

" Then you despise me, Maude, for I do so 
daily," replied Miss Neville, carelessly. " ' Not 
at home' is a mere conventionalism, a phrase 
quite admitted in everyday society." 

Lucy looked vexed ; she was making up her 
mind to speak, when Maude said in an im- 
patient tone — 

" Well, Aunt Augusta, no one will ever make 
me believe; that it would not be a story if I 
told Morris to let Lady Anne suppose I was 
not at home, when all the time I was sitting 
by the fireside." 

" Go it, Maude !" ejaculated the Squire. 
" Why you are getting quite red in the face." 



LUCY AYLMER. 185 

And positively Maude was quite flushed with 
indignation; and turning to Archer, she asked: 
" Now, do you not agree with me, Uncle ?" 

" I am afraid I shall shock you, INIaude, but 
I go with the times," said Archer, Avho had 
been particularly silent over his wing of fowl 
and mulled claret. 

Maude turned rather hopelessly away, then 
with a proud toss of the head, she exclaimed. 

" I know I am right after all." 

" That's right, i\Iaude !" said the Squire. 
"Nothing like thinking well of your own 
opinion ! I will back you in it too ; I am no 
Methodist, but if a fellow calls and asks for 
me, and I am at home, iMorris lets him in, to 
be sure ! Here's a bumper to Claude and me 
— who will join ?" 

Every one would — it was impossible to 
resist the Squire's unbounded good-humour ; 
Augusta caught a spark, and her spirits were 
more really gay that Christmas Eve, than 
throughout her whole London year. But 
Archer caught no spark ; all was dull about 
him, so chill, that if a spark had fallen, it 
would have been instantly extinguished in such 
an atmosphere. 



186 LUCr AYLMER. 

Christmas Day came and went at Forsted, 
as it comes and goes at most places possessing 
such a munificent proprietor as the Countess. 
In the village, the poor regaled off roast beef 
and ale from the Castle ; and at the Castle 
and Manor, there were family gatherings and 
plenty of mirth and merriment. A hard frost 
bringing with it long icicles on house eaves 
and fantastic devices on window panes— a 
light, fairy sprinkling of snow, a bright burst 
of sunshine, lots of red holly berries and dark 
laurel boughs, and a joyous peal of bells, 
completed Christmas Day. And for the rest, 
there was the usual routine of good cheer and 
good temper. Who could or ought to be un- 
amiable on Christmas Day ? The Castle St. 
Agnes folks, and the folks from the Manor, 
exchanged good wishes and greetings beneath 
the porch of old St. Walburga, that is to say 
those of the respective parties who attended 
morning service. Of these, on the Manor 
House side, the gentlemen preferred smoking 
and lounging in their comfortable elbow chairs 
by the fire, to sitting out Robert Aylmer*s 
sermon in their cold pew ; but the Castle 
people, however, were better behaved, for of all 



LUCY ATLMER. 187 

their large party not one was absent from 
the dark old gallery. So it came about that 
the Lady Flora did not then confront the 
original of the sketch she took in the crowd 
on Lord Mayor's day. 

Now Christmas chanced to fall this year on 
Tuesday ; and on the Wednesday afternoon, 
as Augusta Neville was sitting in the drawing- 
room window of the Manor House initiating 
her fair niece Lucy in that intricate and 
absorbing art of cutting holes and then mend- 
ing them, to which ladies are pleased to give 
the name, embroidery — it came to pass that 
Morris with his utmost professional skill, 
threw open the door so wide as greatly to 
threaten and endanger the health and strength 
of its hinges — and was heard to announce in 
tones of proud importance, " The Countess De 
Walden and Lady Flora Erresford !" And 
in sailed the noble old lady, and in ghded her 
retiring, melancholy daughter. It happened 
that Miss Neville and her niece had been so 
engrossed with making the holes over green 
cloth, that they had forgotten the existence 
of Archer, who nevertheless was in the room, 
lounging in an easy chair by the fire, while 



188 LUCY AYLMER. 

his eagle eyes and quick brain were both 
helping one another to grow more and more 
puzzled over the mysteries of the Poet Laureate. 
But when the noble sounding names filled the 
drawing-room, up started the barrister, and 
in a moment, the eagle eyes so puzzled over 
Tennyson, now descried the commanding 
figure and still handsome face of the elder 
lady, and the shrinking form and passive, 
though attractive countenance of the younger. 
Now, though the Lady Flora had not only 
seen, but sketched Mr. Neville's marked 
physiognomy, it had never once occurred to 
Archer, that any one, much less a noble young 
lady was so employed that Lord Mayor's 
day. Accordingly, though he might have 
given a casual glance at the window occupied 
by the fair artist, he carried away no im- 
pression of the countenance; but when on 
entering, Lady Flora confronted that same 
face she had put down on paper, though 
Maude had, in some measure, prepared her, 
by describing it as bearing an unmistakable 
likeness to her uncle, yet so surprised was she, 
that first she turned pale and then she turned 
red and was so confused, that she would 



LUCY AYLMER. 189 

have forgotten to kiss Lucy, if Lucy had not 
kissed her, and would not even have bowed 
to Augusta, only that Augusta shook hands 
with her, and asked her to sit near the fire. 
So Archer handed her a chair, and in a few 
moments Lady Flora found herself conversing 
mth the stranger of the crowd. How oddly 
things come about — so oddly that it quite 
puzzled Lady Flora. 

"I was determined to take the earliest 
opportunity of calKng on you, Miss Neville," 
began the Countess, when she had arranged 
herself and her velvets agreeably on a sofa. 

" It is extremely kind of you," replied the 
dashing Augusta, w^hose stylish dress looked 
Httle in accordance with the shabby old 
furniture of the room. "Strangely enough, 
my brother and I are indebted to the kind- 
ness of a member of your Ladyship's family, 
for having reached Forsted at all, for had we 
not happily fallen in with Mr. Erresford, who 
took compassion on our forlorn state, we 
should have had every chance of commencing 
our Christmas at a duU inn, in that dull town, 
Arminster." 

" My son was deUghted in being able to 



190 LUCY AYLMER. 

convey you here," said the Countess. " Really 
a Christmas at Arminster is something dread- 
ful only to think of, and the reality would be 
intolerable !" 

"Poor little Arminster! and yet in my 
childhood, I have no doubt, I thought it a 
very fine place," observed Augusta ; " but 
after an intimate acquaintance with capitals, all 
minor towns appear insignificant." 

" I believe Erresford told me your home is 
in London ?" resumed the Countess. 

" Yes, we reside there during the habitable 
part of the year. Indeed, though a child of 
the country, what I should do if compelled to 
dwell in its depths — ^here, for instance, from 
year's end to year's end, I never can imagine : 
the most probable conclusion I can arrive at, 
is that of dying of ennui before the first year 
was out." 

"Your views, Miss Neville, perfectly co- 
incide with my own," remarked the Countess ; 
for her ladyship, to agree with any one was a 
wondrous mark of favour. " My son and I," 
she continued, " have many arguments on the 
point. Cecil, for a man of the world, possesses 
a love of the country, that is astonisliing ; for 



LUCY AYLMER. 191 

to my taste, what can a man of cultivated 
mind find in the dull, monotonous routine of 
country life, to equal the charming excitement 
that prevails throughout our season — all that 
can satisfy the most fastidious ideas. Then 
we have the fascinations of the opera, and the 
charm of a ball or a concert at the palace 1" 
and a great deal more on the subject did this 
gay old lady say, which is easily comprised 
by those convenient little words, et cetera. 

Augusta agreed with her in this quite con- 
scientiously ; for if she had wished it, there 
was not one word on which she could differ. 
Presently, the Countess, who never con- 
versed long on one subject, (it had been a rule 
inculcated in her youth to prevent monotony 
of conversation), observed : 

"What charming young creatures your 
nieces are !" 

Again Augusta agreed, but her acquies- 
cence was quahfied, as she rephed : 

" Yes, but they are rather childish." 

" But then their age. Miss NeviUe," added 
the Countess, " the very childlike manner to 
which you object, imparts a lovely freshness. 
Mr. Neville may reasonably expect capital 



192 LUCY AYLMER. 

alliances for such fair young things." The 
Countess was a little bit of a match-maker. 

"I do not imagine my brother has a 
thought on the subject yet," replied Augusta 
smiling, "I do not think he is ambitious, 
provided they marry gentlemen, and Hve 
within a reasonable distance of the old Manor : 
I am sure he will be quite contented." 

" It is a pity," said the Countess. " Those 
two sweet girls ought not to be buried. 
Forsted is very well as a nursery, but they will 
soon require transplanting." 

" Which I intend to do on the first op- 
portunity," rejoined Augusta. " My brother 
has an absurd, old-fashioned prejudice against 
town society, but I mean to combat it. I am 
in the habit of gaining my own way with 
most people," she added with a smile, " and 
my brother Phil is not a difficult person to win 
over." 

" Your niece Maude seems made for a 
London life," continued the Countess, " for 
the gentle Lucy, I question it." 

" I also have my doubts if we shall ever 
get poor httle Lucy through one single 
season." 



LUCY AYLMER. 193 

"It is very insinuating," remarked the 
Countess. 

While Miss Neville and her noble guest 
were planning for the two charming sisters, 
Lady Flora was becoming acquainted ^^dth 
the insinuating, the discerning — and shall 
I add it — the artful, Archer Neville. He could 
be silent, and he could be eminently con- 
versable, as suited his purpose ; he chose now 
to make himself agreeable, for he was fasci- 
nated with the Lady Elora — not the first 
person who had been so before — but to no 
purpose. Was it to any purpose to-day, that 
his eagle eyes kindled, and his fascinating 
voice, whose tones were so varying, that they 
never wearied, put forth its utmost power? 
Ah 1 that like other things remained to be 
proved. 

"You really do like poetry, though your 
preference is limited," Flora said, in answer to 
some remark of Archer's. 

"I do," he rephed, "but the poetry I 
delight in, is not the style whose every effort 
is to shut our eves to its meanino;. I like a 
bold, flomng verse, comprehensible in each 
line, not that morbid kind which puzzles the 

VOL. I. K 



194 LUCY AYLMER. 

head and wearies the heart, so much by its 
very morbidness, as to shut out the apprecia- 
tion of any stray beauty which may chance 
to have wandered in among the stragghng 
metre." 

" Oh ! I care for the soft and touching 
rather than the bold," Lady Flora said in her 
painfully timid voice, while she played 
nervously with the small, soft hand of Lucy, 
which rested in hers. 

" Ah ! I know your style," he replied, 
" The ' Buried Flower' for instance." 

" Oh, yes !" exclaimed Lucy, eagerly. 

"Strange to say, I do not know it," re- 
plied Flora, as though not to know the 
' Buried Flower' were a sin. 

" I brought the whole of Aytoun's poems 
down for Lucy. Where is the book, Lucy ? 
You will lend it to Lady Flora ?" 

Lucy rose, and fetching it, laid it on Lady 
Flora's lap. She opened the volume, and said, 
' it seemed a sweet book.' Flora had a painful 
habit of agreeing to everything, even almost 
before she knew to what she was agreeing. 

" If you like, Lucy, to present the book to 
Lady Flora, and her ladyship will condescend 



LUCY AYLMER. 195 

to accept it, I will ^Tite for another copy 
instantly for you," said Archer. 

*' Oh, no ! pray do not,'' interrupted the 
timid Flora. " Lucy shall send it to me when 
she has read it." 

" But, dear Lady Flora, if Uncle Archer 
gets me another, will it not be the same ?" 
pleaded Lucy. " I should think it so kind if 
you would accept it." Lucy begged so 
earnestly. Lady Flora could not resist, though 
she thought it seemed exactly like receiving a 
present from Mr. Neville, and that she did not 
consider comme il faut. What would Lord 
Glendowan say, and would not Anne tease 
her ? She became quite confused and absent, 
so that the clever Archer talked in vain. At 
last Lady Flora suddenly thought of a plan to 
prevent its appearing to come from Archer : so 
she said : 

" My dear, would you write my name and 
yours in the book, and when you come on 
New Year's Eve, perhaps you wdll bring 
it?" 

" New Year's Eve !" Lucy did not under- 
stand it, though she agreed to Lady Flora's 
proposal. 

K 2 



196 LUCY AYLMER. 



CHAPTER IX. 

My faculties gather to her beauty, like the genii to the 
glister of the lamp. 

CURRER BELL. 

New Year's Eve ! — it came as many other 
New Year's Eves have done before. The old 
year worn out and hoary with age, tottered 
on its foundations ; and the young new year, 
though not yet known, was ready at the stroke 
of twelve to spring into existence. The hghts 
glimmered faintly from room to room, and 
then went out ; and the old Manor House lay 
enveloped in darkness ; even the half thawed 
snow heaps, which were doing their best to 
freeze hard again on the edges of lawns and 
gravel-walks, all wore a black look, as if they 
were mourning for the dying year. 



LUCY AYLMER. 197 

From the windows of Castle St. Agnes, the 
lights gleamed brightly and evenly in a perfect 
burst, and the lamps down the drive burnt 
clearly too, and lighted up the snow, so that it 
shone like crystal ; and all looked bright await- 
ing gladly the coming year. 

The Countess D e Walden was in her element 
to-night — all her brilliant reception rooms, so 
long silent and dreary, were thrown open. 
Exquisite statuary, brilliant candelabra, re- 
flected from dazzling mirrors, all wore a strange 
contrast to the gloom of a few months back. 

A time-worn adage tells us, that ' It is an 
ill- wind that blows no one any good ' — The 
fire at Wood Hall was an ill-wind for the 
place in Essex ; but it blew good to the place 
in Somersetshire. All the neighbourhood 
thought so, especially that night, when the 
visitable neighbourhood lounged on the 
Countess's ottomans, or danced in the 
Countess's saloons, and the Countess moved 
about among them all, like a queen doing the 
honours of her palace. 

Lady Flora, young, drooping and elegant, 
danced T\4th Lord Glendowan. Archer Neville, 
danced with no one ; his arms were crossed in a 



198 LUCY AYLMER. 

Napoleon-like attitude ; his eagle eyes followed 
the strangely assorted pair, and in the expres- 
sion that portended no good, there was 
jealousy — and the only softening expression 
was love — and that was a new passion with 
Archer — he had only once seen the Lady 
Flora, and yet he loved her — and that love 
made him think Lord Glendowan no fit 
husband for her. He was bent on dancing 
with Lady Flora, and so he asked no one else, 
but stood apart confronting a mirror, and in 
that mirror, he saw his splendid sister dancing 
with Cecil Erresford. A satirical smile just 
touched his lips and disappeared. 

He saw Maude and Lucy both dancing, 
the one eagerly, the other wearily — and the 
mirror showed him, apart from the others, 
Robert Aylmer in a very straight waistcoat, 
talking to Lady Anne, with her massive gold 
cross depending from her stately throat. 
There was an unmistakable contempt in every 
feature of his countenance as he looked at 
them ; and while he looked, in the glass shone 
Lord Glendowan, with his arm round the waist 
of the Lady Flora. Then presently, his niece 
Lucy stopped her partner, who handed her to 



LUCY ATLMER. 199 

a coucli close by. Lucy looked flushed and 
tired, and her partner, a well got up, ordinary 
looking man, asked if she did not prefer 
music to dancing ? and Lucy replying in the 
affirmative, he said, " ah, I thought so 1" — and 
asked if she wished to continue her polka. 
She thanked him, but declined ; he did not 
seem in the least offended, but rather relieved, 
and after a slight bow, went ofi" to dance with 
a bold-looking girl, with a superabundance of 
pink ribbons depending from her shoulders ; 
and he appeared to enjoy her much more than 
the quiet little Lucy. She sat and fanned 
herself -with her Aunt's beautiful white 
jewelled fan. Five minutes after Cecil Erres- 
ford was by her side. 

" I fear you have been neglected," he said 
in the kindest manner possible — indeed there 
was a touch of reverence in it. 

" No, indeed I have been dancing," she re- 
plied. 

" You do not like the polka. I remember, 
you said so once ; it fatigues you, I believe. I 
will order the music to be changed, and then 
perhaps you will dance a quadrille with me ?" 



200 LUCY AYLMER. 

And in her childish way, she said, " Thank 

you." 

He took the fan from her, and fanned her 
himself for a little while, and then he put that 
tiny hand on his arm, and they went away 
together to stop the music. Then did some 
one else look jealous — and that some one was 
Robert Aylnier — he would have followed Cecil 
and Lucy, only that Lady Anne — (he voted her 
a bore !) was deep in her favourite discussion — 
strange enough for a ball-room, of High 
Church and Low Church. He tried to shake 
her off, but Lady Anne was not a person to be 
shaken off; on she went, and presently she 
said, '' Really, Mr. Aylmer, our church looks 
precisely like a meeting-house." 

"You are very hard upon poor old St. 
Walburga," replied Robert. " I cannot see 
one point in which there is any resemblance." 

*' Pardon me, but indeed there is," persisted 
the authoritative Lady Anne. " Where else, 
but in a meeting-house, do you now see those 
high unsightly pews, and where that oppressive 
glare of white paint ?" 

" I own that is not in accordance with the 



LUCY AYLMER. 201 

beautiful we ought to take for our model in 
church architecture," he replied. 

"I concluded you approved of it, by the 
passive manner in which you submitted to all 
my brother's arrangements," Lady Anne coldly 
remarked. 

'' You would not surely challenge me to 
oppose any of my kind patron's plans ?" said 
Robert, with a wavering smile. 

" Then you are to have no opinion of your 
own ; and you, whose office authorizes you to 
dictate, are quietly to submit to be dictated 
to ? A new view of priestly authority ?" said 
Lady Anne with a sarcastic smile, as she fixed 
her eyes on him in a cold, indifierent manner. 

Lucy had disappeared, Robert knew not 
whither — Cecil was fascinating — Robert 
wished Lucy was by his side, but he — shall it 
be confessed — began to be a little afraid of 
Lady Anne, so he stood motionless as he re- 
plied, " Would you have me, simply because 
I am a clergyman, quarrel with my patron 
whom I am bound by every tie of gratitude 
and affection to respect?" 

" Absurd !" murmured Lady Anne, who 
was decidedly not acting up to her opinion, 

K 3 



202 LUCY AYLMER. 

that priests ought not to be dictated to; 
but Robert was too passive to see this, and 
when she murmured "absurd l" he replied 
with the utmost good-humour. " Lady Anne, 
you are severe upon me ! Since the unfortunate 
pews have so much incurred your displeasure, 
why did you not use your influence with your 
brother, while they were being painted ? 
When I arrived, they were past alteration." 

" And I do not belive you would have said 
a word, had your opinion been asked. Mr. 
Aylmer I am angry with you." 

" It grieves me to hear it, Lady Anne," said 
Robert playfully. 

" No, but seriously, do you care so little for 
your church," continued her Ladyship, dog- 
matically, " that her architecture remains a 
matter of indifference ? I suppose when you 
marry, you will care to see your wife well- 
dressed ?" This was certainly the greatest 
home thrust Lady Anne could bring to bear 
on the obstinate young priest; though she 
decidedly disapproved of any of the office, 
from a deacon to an archbishop, taking upon 
himself matrimonial vows. 

Now, it so happened that Robert was not 



LUCY AYLMER. 203 

only thinking of Lucy at that moment, but 
thinking what a sweet Httle wife she would 
make ; consequently he felt himself colour as 
he replied, with as much indifference as he 
could throw into his voice — 

" I suppose my wife, if ever I find her, 
will use her own judgment in matters that 
concern her toilette. 

"So it is — so it is," observed Lady Anne, 
in a dejected tone. " I really do think if one 
half our priests," (Lady Anne always made a 
point of saying ' priest,' it sounded orthodox) 
" were requested by their patrons, no matter 
who or what their patrons might be, to officiate 
in a meeting-house, they would comply." 

" And I for one would never do so !" ex- 
claimed Robert, rather vehemently. " No, 
though I owe more to my patron, than many 
a man owes to his own parents, I would lay 
down my gown sooner than sink so low !" 

There was the least possible gleam of 
triumph in Lady Anne's fine eyes, as she 
said — 

" You surprise me, Mr. Aylmer I" 

" Your Ladyship certainly does me in- 
justice," observed Robert, and he looked a 



204 LUCY AYLMER. 

little vexed. " You must not think that were 
I building my own church, that high pews or 
white paint would find their way in. Long 
since at Oxford, before I took orders, I made 
a design of what I wished my church to be. 
When you honour me with a visit at my snug 
little parsonage, you shall see it, and then, 
perhaps, your Ladyship will judge me a little 
less harshly," he rephed in the most perfect 
good-humour. 

" Mr. Aylmer, I have lived longer in the 
world than you have, and I have learned by 
experience that it is useless forming plans 
unless we carry them out," propounded Lady 
Anne, with as much old fashioned gravity, as 
if she were some twenty years, instead of only 
eight Robert's senior. 

" But, my dear Lady Anne, when have I 
ever had an opportunity of building a church?" 
said Robert, looking a little puzzled. 

" We will, if you please, put church archi- 
tecture aside, it applies to everything," she 
answered. 

" Tor what new sin is your Ladyship going 
to call me to account ?" asked Robert, still in 
the same tone of playful indifference. 



LUCY AYLMER. 205 

" I call you to account ! No, Mr. Aylmer, 
may I never so far forget your high dignity 
as to commit such a breach of respect to the 
priestly office 1" 

" What now, Anne 1 are you preaching a 
sermon to Robert, or he to you, which is it ? 
I rather think the former T It was Cecil who 
said this, the quadrille was over and he 
brought Lucy on his arm. 

Lady Anne disdained a reply, 

" Miss Lucy," she said, " you have been 
taken care of?" 

" As far as my protecting power extends,'* 
repHed Cecil, in his cheerful, frank voice, 
which was a relief to Robert after Lady 
Anne's dignified monotony ; and it was a 
greater relief still, when Cecil added, " And 
now I have come to make over the trust, 
Robert, to you, if Miss Lucy objects not." 
In an instant Lucy was transferred to the arm 
she had so often leant upon, in play and in 
graver hours. '' Now then, what am I to do?" 
exclaimed Cecil, smiling, "the press of busi- 
ness overpowers me." 

" You were going to dance with Maude," 



206 LUCY AYLMER. 

said the bashful, little Lucy, who, however, 
had ceased to fear Cecil. 

" Thanks many, lady fair ! I was about to 
forget one sweet sister for the other. Well, it 
was more than pardonable. Let me see, where 
is Queen Maude, ah, now ! I see, she dances 
with Glendowan, and my sister Plora dances 
with your Uncle. How well he waltzes ! I 
could scarcely have imagined it. He looks 
almost too philosophical for such an amuse- 
ment." 

" You will wait for Maude ?" said the un- 
selfish little Lucy, thinking her sister would 
like to waltz with so agreeable a partner. 

" To be sure I will, lady fair, since in Eng- 
land we cannot ' Hospitiren.' Aylmer do you 
recollect what tricks we used to play in our 
younger days, when we wintered at Berlin ?" 

" We have both grown old and steady since 
then," laughed Robert. 

" Old, my dear fellow ! don't talk about 
such an unpalatable thing as age, I do not 
feel as if I should ever grow old ; Eivig jung 
und Ewig grun I that is what I intend to 
ber 



LUCY AYLMER. 207 

"I verily believe you are the happiest 
fellow on the face of the earth !" said Robert, 
admiringly. 

" Well, I think I am," replied Cecil, so 
radiantly, that Lucy forgot her timidity and 
looked up smilingly in his face, " and I do not 
see," Cecil continued, " why I should not be 
happy, or, indeed, why every one should not : 
do you. Miss Lucy ?" 

" Oh ! I do not know what unhappiness is !" 
said the sweet young voice. 

" And I hope you never will," said Robert, 
warmly. 

" That is a very kind wish, Robert," re- 
joined Lucy. 

" And I second it with all my heart," said 
Cecil. 

^ Robert loved his patron ; but he loved Lucy 
too, and he began to be fidgetty lest the 
fascinating and attractive Cecil should out- 
shine himself in her eyes. Poor little Lucy ! 
no one was more innocent of love affairs than 
herself! Just at this moment. Lord Glen- 
dowan and Maude ceased dancing, and Cecil 
crossed the room to join them. Robert was 
glad to have Lucy entirely to himself, and 



208 LUCY AYLMER. 

finding Lady Anne was gone, he led her away 
to a quiet little boudoir filled with engravings, 
statuettes, and a variety of the smaller w^orks 
of art. There they sat down, and Robert 
amused his quiet companion with pictures of 
all kinds, from flowers and birds to designs of 
monasteries and cathedrals. Lucy liked this 
better than dancing : it was the first large 
party to which she had ever been, and the 
excitement, bustle and numbers, instead of 
making her more lively, only rendered her 
more quiet and shy. 

" I do not think, Lucy, you will ever really 
enjoy dancing," said Robert. 

" I like it when I am at home, or in a 
quiet party ; but among strangers, it is not at 
all agreeable." 

" What kind of life should you like to lead, 
Lucy, if you had a choice?" asked Robert. 

"What do you mean?" enquired Lucy, 
turning on him her sweet ingenuous face. 

" When you are grown up, and decide for 
yourself — shall you choose a gay life or a quiet 

" A quiet one, certainly," replied Lucy. " I 
should like to live always exactly as I do now. 



LUCY AYLMER. 209 

with papa and Maude, and dear Lady Flora 
to visit now and then, and you at the vicarage, 
Robert." 

" Would my living at the vicarage con- 
tribute to your happiness, Lucy?" he asked 
earnestly. 

Simple Lucy ! she replied truthfully, " yes, 
I should like you to be there." 

"Thank you, Lucy, and I hope I shall 
always remain here, it is a delightful spot ; 
but I should not like to live always alone." 

" Nor I !" replied Lucy quietly. Then she 
rose and drew Robert's attention to a model of 
Strasburg Cathedral. 

It was really difficult to decide which was 

the most unsophisticated, Robert or Lucy; 

and it was a question Archer Neville was 

revolving in his own mind, when after a 

lengthened waltz, he walked the Lady Flora 

through the rooms, gracefully dehcate and 

elegant : he felt a pride in having her on his 

arm. 

" They are completely unworldly, both of 

them !" Archer remarked, " and just the sort 

of characters, who if they fell in wdth designing 

people, would be imposed upon." 



210 LUCY ATLMER. 

" Let US hope, then, they never will meet 
with persons of that description," said Flora, 
as she caught sight, through the long vista 
of rooms, of the sweet face she so much ad- 
mired. 

"Do you know," observed Archer, carelessly, 
" I often think beneath those outwardly com- 
posed and unsophisticated exteriors, there is 
a hidden evil which we do not suspect ; but 
which will break out and show itself on the 
first occasion likely to call it forth." 

" Oh, Mr. Neville !" Lady Plora exclaimed, 
" the idea of my sweet Lucy having any ill 
concealed !" 

" Lucy, perhaps not," replied Archer, 
"though there are things more improbable." 
Then seeing Lady Flora's shocked expression, 
he added, " Lucy is a sweet child, but she has 
no character." 

" She is so young yet, that it remains to 
be proved !" said Lady Flora, with more energy 
than she usually displayed, "and then the 
idea of attacking poor Mr. Aylmcr, who 
always appears so good and amiable, and 
laying hard things to him ! Mr. Neville, you 
surprise me." 



LUCY AYLMER. 211 

Archer smiled, and he looked handsome 
and attractive as he smiled. " I am generally 
a tolerable discerner of character," he replied, 
" I may be forming mistaken opinions now ; 
but if, in a few years, Mr. Aylmer is not led 
away to harm, I shall be agreeably surprised." 

" Disagreeably," Archer ought to have said, 
for there was always a certain amount of satis- 
faction to his mind, when he read characters 
aright, even should evil be the result. 

Lady Flora was silent a few moments, and 
then she said : 

" I am sorry you think so ill of meek, 
characterless people, if I may coin an ex- 
pression." 

" I do not think iU of them, but I dishke 
them as a class." 

Lady, Flora sighed. 

"I do not think * meek' people, as yom^ 
Ladyship is pleased to designate them, devoid 
of character," observed Archer, with one of 
those sudden variations of tone, which drew 
attention to whatever subject he conversed on. 

" No !" said Lady Flora, starting slightly. 
" I am glad to hear this is your opinion. I was 



212 LUCY AYLMER. 

thinking your's was rather a sweeping con- 
demnation/' 

" It was surely not my judgment on a 
certain class of insipid ones, that drew forth 
so triste a sigh from the Lady Flora some 
few moments back ?" asked Archer, with his 
utmost gallantry. "If so, I repent my 
words." 

" Oh, no !" exclaimed Mora, "I like a frank 
opinion. It is what one is so seldom favoured 
with." 

" Erank opinions are not generally pleasing 
to ladies' ears, and therefore is it, they so 
rarely find their way into the ladies' presence- 
chamber," added Archer, with another 
courtly smile. 

Flora would have said, she had always 
liked the truth in any shape or form, but she 
remembered the numberless equivocations of 
her own hapless youth, and was silent — sadly 
silent. 

Archer observed her change of look, and 
said in a brilliant tone : 

" A truce to my suspicions of harmless Mr. 
Aylmer, and his still more harmless petite 



LUCY ATLMER. 213 

amie. In spite of her childisliless, Lucy is 
attractive, certainly." 

" Oh, more than attractive ! She is ex- 
quisitely winning ; but are you a poet, Mr. 
NevHle?" 

" I, a poet, your Ladyship ! I wish I were, 
for I would instantly improvise some line on 
my little niece and her admiring friend, the 
Lady Flora — weave you both into one 
chaplet," he said. 

Mora smiled, as she replied : 

"My pretty Lucy always reminds me of 
the slender harebells one sees on the hill 
side." 

"To my mind, she rather resembles a 
violet," he said, " and shall I be presump- 
tuous, if I intertwine with the violet, the queen 
of flowers to personate the Lady Mora ?" 

And the Lady Flora's pale cheeks crimsoned, 
as she repHed : 

" The rose is so stately a flower — Maude is 
the rose — and on her height, she keeps guard 
over the violet who nestles at her feet." 

" Then if Lady Flora will not be crowned 
with the rose, will she not ent^vine among her 
hair, the silver coronet of the lily ?" resumed 



214 LUCY ATLMER. 

Archer, accommodating himself to Flora's poetic 
taste. 

" You are wreathing for me all the noblest 
flowers," she said. "Mr. Neville, you must 
let me be the lily of the valley." 

" Lovely, but too much hidden, too droop- 
ing, too easily trampled upon 1" he replied. 

" That is the reason I choose it," she added 
in a hurried, timid tone ; " but the violet and 
the rose, how beautifully they personate your 
fair young nieces. And the Squire," she con- 
tinued, " is the oak sheltering these fair flowers 
from wind and storm, with its protecting 
branches." 

Archer smiled, for he knew full well that 
the sheltering oak was losing fast of his sub- 
stance at the card-tables. 

It was past ten o'clock on the flrst morning 
of the new year, when Augusta Neville, came 
into the dining-room, looking very elegant, 
and very languid. The Squire was lolHng back 
in an easy chair, with hat and whip, on the 
floor by his side, a newspaper in his hand, a 
dog reposing at his feet, and another dog 
curled up on his knee. 

The Squire jumped up, called out, "Halloa ! 



LUCY AYLMER. 215 

Miss Neville !" — dropped liis dog, kissed his 
sister, and then rang the bell violently. 

Meanwhile Augusta sunk into a chair, 
placing her very tasty little sHppers on a 
cushion, and then asked her brother if he had 
breakfasted ? To which the Squire replied, 
"lor bless me ! I have done it pretty nearly 
these three hoiu's ago, and I've ridden a dozen 
miles since !" 

At this, the splendid Augusta thought fit to 
sigh, and express wonder, considering the 
hour they retired to rest on the preceding 
night, or rather the present morning. 

Oh ! as to that, hours made no difference 
with the Squire, he always rose with the lark, 
and he could but doze longer after dinner, to 
make it up. He did not keep London hours, 
he could not bear them ! and when he said 
this, he laughed, and seemed to challenge 
Augusta to an argument, but Augusta poured 
out her tea in silence. 

The Squire, however, did not favour silence, 
so he said ; " the Bond Street costumes shone 
last night pretty resplendently ; but none with 
greater brilliancy than that of the handsome 



216 LUCY AYLMER. 

Augusta — 'pon my word ! I have hit that off 
very successfully, as good as a love-speech ! — 
though you don't think so, now do you.?" 

"I do not know what I think yet, Phil, I 
am scarcely awake." 

" Come, that's all a turn off ! Now tell me 
candidly, did not Miss Neville shine last 
night ?" 

" Of course, she meant to shine," replied 
Augusta, carelessly. 

" Meant to send a sun-stroke into our 
Right Honourable M.P.'s heart, eh?" said 
the Squire. 

" No such very easy thing to do, I should 
fancy," Augusta replied. Just then Morris 
came in with covers, and there was a moment's 
silence. When he had gone again, Augusta 
said in a tone of voice, in which the least 
possible dissatisfaction was discernible : " Do 
you think he means anything to Lucy ?" 

" What— who ? Robert !" exclaimed the 
Squire. " Why they are sworn brother and 
sister to the end of time !" 

" But we were not speaking of Mr. Aylmer, 
were we, Phil !" she asked. 



LTJCY AYLMER. 217 

" Lor no ! of the Right Honom-able the 
member ; but bless me, Augusta, what 
should he mean to my Lucy ?" 

" Oh, Phi], you are so bUnd !'* said 
Augusta, rather impatiently, " several people 
noticed his manner to Lucy." 

"Danced with her all the evening, eh?" 
asked the Squire. 

" Oh, dear no 1" replied Augusta. " I 
should hope not ! but when he came near her 
he was so unspeakably tender." 

" riddle de dee ! why my Lucy is a baby 
yet!" 

" Babies of sixteen are sometimes dangerous 
to young men's hearts. But hush, Phil, not a 
word !" she added, placing her finger on her 
lips, "here comes Lucy !" 

Presh and fair as ever, with very Httle 
weariness in her eyes she came in, as she 
always did, hke a beam of hght to the room. 
She went directly up to her father, and he 
pulled her down on his knee, quite gently 
though — who was not gentle with Lucy ? 
He put his arm round her, and she laid one 
arm round his neck, and the other hung down, 

VOL. I. L 



218 LUCY AYLMER. 

SO that the dogs on the hearth-rug came and 
Ucked the small fair hand. 

" And to my rose bud, my lily of the valley, 
my queen violet, I wish — oh, such a New 
Year !" said the Sq.uire," I've wished it before, 
many a year, and wish it again, aye, and hope 
to do it again and again. Such a New Year ! 
something uncommon, that all the sunshine 
may shine on you, and all the clouds keep off 
you ! and whenever you marry, may your 
husband only love you as much as your old 
father does, my dear little Lucy bird !" then 
the Squire commenced kissing her again and 
again, and between each kiss he would pause, 
and look at that cloudless face, as if he read 
sweet lessons from her pure brow ; and when, 
at last, he found tears stealing over his sun- 
burnt cheek, he put her off his knee, and 
rubbing his hand hastily across his face, told 
her : " There, go and have your breakfast, my 
heart's delight !" After that the Squire took 
up the paper and seemed lost in its perusal, 
but in truth it was not so ; for he was think- 
ing of his child — Then suddenly the door 
swung on its old hinges, and this time in 



LUCY AYLMER. 219 

entered Maude, and behind her was Archer. 
Maude was very radiant, and wished lots of 
" happy New Years" in her very meriy voice ; 
and her father called her his beauty, and 
Maude said lots of impertinent things to her 
aunt and uncle ; and there was plenty of 
talking, but Archer was silent, for he thought 
much of the Lady Flora. What business had 
Archer to think of the Lady Flora? more 
especially, if his thoughts were tender ones ? 
And they were tender, aye, the softest thoughts 
that had ever entered that worldly heart ! But 
why did they tarry? Had not the Lady 
Flora been for more than twelve months 
the betrothed of Lord Glendowan? Yes, 
Archer knew that, he knew everything — but 
Lord Glendowan was no obstacle to him ; he 
loved the Lady Flora ! And did her look tell 
false ? Did her tremblinsc voice tell false ? 
She did not love Lord Glendowan ! ah, the 
eagle eyes saw^ that at a glance ! What 
recked he the betrothal ring ? What cared he 
for promises of mutual love ? All that should 
be forgotten. He, Archer, the proud pre- 
smnptuous man, would win the Lady Flora, 
put forth his utmost powers, and shine so 

L 2 



220 LUCY AYLMER. 

brightly in her drooping eyes, as to outshine 
all else ! 

" Well, Archer, old fellow ! and who smote 
your heart last night?" asked the Squire, 
suddenly. 

" No one," Archer replied, as unconcernedly 
as if it were the truth. 

" No one ? Well you are a strong fellow ! I 
saw flowers and ribbons enough, let alone 
white arms, to strike even an old widower 
like me, if I had not long ago made over my 
heart to these insinuating girls of mine !" 

" Oh ! Archer is terribly proof against all 
attractions," said Augusta, " and I suppose it 
is a good thing for me." 

" Why, Auntie ?" asked Maude. 

" Because Aunt Augusta likes to play first 
fiddle, and if there were a Mrs. Archer in 
the case, she would have to give over the 
keys to her — do you see, Maude ?" said the 
Squire. 

Maude laughed, and so did Augusta. 

" Then you would not like Uncle Archer to 
marry ?" observed Lucy. 

" No ! not till after I am married myself," 
replied Augusta, carelessly. 



LUCI AYLMER. 221 

" I suppose Uncle Archer must ask your 
permission, Auntie, when he sees the lady ?" 
said Maude, archly. 

" Impertinent child !" exclaimed Augusta 
smiling. " Maude, you are dreadfuUy spoiled." 

" Auntie !" Maude added suddenly with a 
mischievous smile. " How did you hke Lady 
Anne ?" 

" Not at all : she is an odious creature, so 
prim and stiff and would-be-good !" 

Maude burst out lauo-hino;. 

" It was capital fun last night, Auntie, to 
watch you two whenever you came together. 
If her Ladyship was proud. Miss Neville was 
prouder ! You looked as if you were trying 
which could show the most nonchalance and 
cool contempt for the other." 

'' You become worse and worse, I declare, 
Maude !" said her Aunt, while the Squire 
seemed to enjoy Maude's description, and even 
Archer could not forbear smiling. 

" And how did you enjoy yourself, my quiet 
little Lucy ?" asked her Aunt. 

" Oh very much !" replied Lucy, in a 
tone there was no mistaking for pleasur- 
able. 



222 LUCY AYLMER. 

" And what caused you so much enjoy- 
ment ?" continued Augusta, with a searching 
look. 

" I do not know," Lucy repKed, " I have 
not yet asked myself that question. I think I 
am generally happy, Aunt Augusta." 

"But there are degrees of happiness as 
well as degrees of sorrow," said Augusta ; 
" and having more pleasure at one time than 
at another, must depend upon some circum- 
stance ?" 

Lucy looked rather puzzled. "Perhaps I 
enjoyed it because it was new," she replied, 
after a moment's pause. " I have often heard 
you say, Aunt Augusta, that novelty charms." 

" Capital ! little Lu answering Auntie in 
her own coin !" exclaimed her father. "Come 
Augusta," he added, "our Lucy bird has 
no confessions to make ; you need not press 
her so hard !" 

" Have you formed any plans for the day, 
Phil ?" asked Archer, as he rose and looked 
out on the lawn. 

" Plans, my good fellow ? None whatever ! 
I am your servant to command ; say the 



LITCY ATLMER. 223 

word, and Phil Neville's your man 1" The 
Squire rose up and looked out of the window 
with his brother. 

" A hard frost and plenty of blue in the 
sky ! suppose we ride ?" said Archer listlessly. 

'' The very thing !" exclaimed the Squire ; 
" come and choose your horse." The two 
brothers walked towards the door when the 
Squire tmiied back suddenly with, " Bless 
me, we've forgotten the ladies !" 

" Oh, pray do not trouble yourself about 
us, Phil ! Lady Pairfield sends her pony chair 
over this morning : she has no use for it this 
cold season, and has made it over to me during 
my stay." 

" Why then," said the Squire, " if that's 
the way the wind blows, and seeing you and 
Lucy have got a little trap to carry you about, 
why can't Maude give the old pony some 
work, and come with us. Wliat do you say 
to a ride, eh, Maude ?" 

" I should enjoy it above all things, papa !" 
exclaimed Maude gleefully ; and without 
further delay Maude skipped off to prepare. 
In less than half an hour afterwards, the 



224 LUCl ATLMER. 

Squire and Archer, both well mounted, and 
Maude, on a white pony, were trotting slowly 
down one of the steep Arminster hills. There 
was a hard ringing frost; and the smooth 
well beaten high road sparkled as if spangled 
with numberless tiny diamonds ; and the sun 
shone so brilliantly from such an azure sky, 
that despite the cold air and leafless trees, 
it gave almost the impression of summer. 
The tall horses, linked in their long lines to 
the heavily laden waggons trading to and from 
Bristol, wore a drowsy look as they slowly 
trod to the low, jingling music of their own 
bells ; and the drivers jogging along by the 
side of their team, or reclining on the mer- 
chandise, seemed as though overcome by the 
bright burst from the heavens : even a solitary 
and pecuHarly ugly donkey, grazing in a field, 
took a sudden fit of freshness as the riders 
passed, and went capering and frisking round 
and round his meadow, throwing up his legs 
and elevating his tail most joyfully, as if to 
testify, by the only means in his power, the 
deUght he felt in the beautiful sunUght. The 
weather was so gladsome, that Maude irrre- 



LUCY AYLMER. 225 

sistibly burst forth into singing, as she rode 
along, a song, with the opening words, 
" There is sunKght in Heaven !" 

" And on the earth, too, and everywhere !" 
interrupted the Squire. ''Heigho, Archer, 
old boy ! see what a fine thing it is to live in 
the country. You don't get such sights as 
these, not even in your boasted Hyde 
Park ?" 

"No, indeed, none of this,'' replied Archer, 
as his eagle eyes glanced far on before him 
— what could he be looking so intently for ? 

The Squire gave him credit for admiring 
the country, so he called out : 

" Ah ! look while you may — there is a 
valley for you, forty miles, and more ! I 
would rather have one hill here, than all 
your great city put together." 

Abusing London was a favourite subject 
with the Squire, quite a hobby. Archer knew 
this, so he only smiled in silence. 

" Nothing preserves a man so well as good, 
fresh air," persisted the dogmatical Squire, 
" it keeps ofi" grey hair and wrinkles." 

Archer smiled again, thinking his brother 
rather a bore, and almost feeling contempt for 

L 8 



226 LUCY AYLMER. 

what he considered a foolish fondness for his 
native place. 

Squire Neville's rhapsodies were put a stop 
to, however, by Maude exclaiming : 

" There is Robert a good way on before 
us. Papa, shall we have a race and overtake 
him?" 

Robert was riding a horse Erresford had 
lent him, and riding slowly, so that Maude, 
who was first, soon got nearly up to him ; and 
then the sound of her swift pony's feet, on 
the hard road, caused him to look round, and 
seeing her, he stopped. 

'' Ah ! give in, you are pm'sued, old fellow !" 
shouted the Squire, who was close behind. 

" I surrender," replied Robert laughing ; 
" why, Maude, it is an age since I have seen 
you mounted !" 

" It is so delightful !" she exclaimed, breath- 
lessly, " come, papa, do let us walk steadily 
for a little way." 

" What ! done for so soon, Missey ! I 
thought you were a brave rider ?" 

" Oh, papa, I assure you I am quite ready 
for another race if you wish it : only I want to 
talk a little to Robert." 



LUCY AYLMER. 227 

" About the ball, eh ? I thought we picked 
that subject threadbare at breakfast ; but never 
mind, begin again !" 

"I have nothing to begin upon, papa," 
said Maude laughing. " I want to know 
where Robert is going." 

" I was meditating a ride to Arminster," he 
replied, " but it is of no consequence, another 
day will do as well." 

" But why alter your plans for us ?" asked 
Archer. 

" Oh ! my plans are quite unimportant," 
Robert answered. 

" If they are so unimportant, I am curious 
to know what they can be," said Maude. 

" I wanted to look in on Tapley, the new 
organ-builder," Robert replied, rather hesita- 
tingly. 

" Bless my stars ! what do you want at 
Tapley 's ?" exclaimed the Squire " Are your 
pockets so heavy, that you must needs lighten 
them by presenting Forsted with an organ ?" 

" We require one badly enough," replied 
Roberta 

" It would be vastly in the way, if you 
managed to get it in, which I feel disposed to 



228 LUCY AYLMER. 

question," said the Squire ; '* besides Forsted 
would not be Forsted without its fiddle and 
bassoon. I am sure we sing well enough." 

" Do you think so ? to my ears the singing 
sounds execrable," answered Robert, warmly. 

" Oh ! you young Oxford gentlemen have 
such fine ears," said the Squire, good humour- 
edly. 

Robert looked appealingly to Archer. 

" Did you not think our singing very bad ?" 

" There was too little of it to offend me," 
Archer replied. 

" I wish we could have more," said Robert, 
'' two psalms ill performed, make the singing, 
in pubHc worship, a mockery." 

" Oh ! do not introduce a quantity of chaunt- 
ing, Robert ! it will make the service so long," 
exclaimed Maude. 

Robert shook his head at her with a re- 
proachful smile. 

'' Then I must not count upon your assist- 
ance, when I organize a choir, Maude ?" 

" It is not in my line," she replied, laughing, 
" but what new proceeding are you going to 
start in St. Walburga ?" 

" None, at present, Maude." 



LUCY AYLMER. 229 

" And none ever, I hope," exclaimed the 
Squire. " You may depend, Robert, the best 
way to make yourself popular, is to let our 
old-fashioned ways alone. If we don't have 
things so fine here as at Oxford, just overlook 
that, take us as you find us — but don't play 
new games here ; because, if you do, as sure 
as you are alive, you will make dissenters, and 
then, when once you set up divisions, you 
have spoiled old Forsted !" 

Robert did not like to think hard things of 
his father's friend, but he could not help say- 
ing to himself — 

" What ignorance ! just because I talked of 
looking at an organ, to fancy I shall make 
dissenters !" and Robert remained silent. 

"You are not offended. Bob, old boy?" 
said the Squire, drawing his horse close along 
side of Robert's. " You know I am a plain 
fellow, and speak my mind pretty freely." 

" I admire you for it," said Robert, " and I 
assure you. Sir, I never become offended with 
any one because he does not entertain the same 
opinions as myself." 

"That's right !" replied the Squire, "now 



230 LUCY AYLMER. 

give up this organ business, and dine with us 
to-day. It will be like old times to begin the 
new year with you, Robert." 

" It will give me far more pleasure to dine 
with you, than to ride alone to Arminster," said 
Robert, warmly. Then, as if by way of apology, 
he added, "I assure you I was not going 
organ-hunting on my own account ; but Lady 
Anne asked me to ascertain the probable ex- 
pense of one, and I like to obHge Erresford's 
sisters." 

** So her stiff Ladyship is going to present 
us with an organ, eh ?" said the Squire. 

" I cannot say that exactly, but between 
ourselves, I think it is not unlikely," replied 
Robert. 

" Bother her meddling face !" burst forth 
the Squire indignantly. 

Maude and Robert laughed, and Archer 
said — 

" I thought the organ discussion was over?" 

" So it was," replied the Squire, " but that 
meddling Lady Anne ! I wish she would let us 
alone?" 

" Let St. Walburga, alone, you mean, papa," 



LUCY AYLMER. 231 

said Maude, " but I do not think that is 
Hkely. What do you say to her working a 
chancel carpet in Lent ?" 

" Doing what ?" asked the Squire. " AMiy 
we have just had a new carpet, haven't we ?" 

" Yes ; but Lady Anne told Auntie, that it 
is too plain — her carpet is to be all covered 
with crosses, I saw the pattern on her table 
the other day." 

" But you will see the trumpery is not put 
down when it is worked, eh, Robert ?" said 
the Squire. 

'' I cannot quarrel with Lady Anne," was 
Robert's reply. 

" Quarrel ! no, who wants you to do that ? 
But you are not going to stick any finery the 
women choose to give you into the church ?" 

" Oh ! trust me. Sir," said Robert, smiling 
at Mr. Neville's vehemence. " St. Walburga 
shall be always dressed in good taste." 

" The less dressing in the church the bet- 
ter," replied the Squire. " Let us have things 
plain, and not like a parcel of Papists !" 

" Papa is dreadfully afraid of you, Robert," 
observed Maude laughing. 

" No, no," said Robert, " I understand Mr. 



232 LUCY AYLMER. 

Neville perfectly. There is much that is extreme 
going on just now, and your father does not 
like it — but you need not be afraid, I am a 
thorough churchman, and no tampcrer with 
Rome." 

" Well said, Bob !" exclaimed the Squire. 
" I am not afraid of you, old boy ! Now for 
another race, who will be first to the maiden 
beech tree ? Now^ Maude, off with you — I'll 
back you against the parson !" 

And thus good-humouredly passed off 
Robert's first church discussion with the 
Squire. It terminated in a pleasant dinner and 
evening at the old Manor, where he played at 
draughts in a quiet corner with Lucy, and 
sang the bass in some glees which Augusta 
and the girls tried over. He was so amiable 
and obhging, that Augusta began to like him ; 
and the evening ended with an invitation to 
May Fair, whenever he should visit town. 



LUCY AYLMER. 233 



CHAPTER X. 

I ^as, indeed, awake, and heard with awe 

The roar of elements 

It was a fearful night. 



JOANNA BAILLIE. 



Some days after, the weather set in wild and 
stormy, as if all the T\qnd3 from all quarters 
had joined in concert to work as much mischief 
as within them lay. And together, they made 
such a hurricane, as had not been known for 
many a year. The roar and clash of the ocean, 
some miles off, might almost be heard from 
Worsted, — and on land there was such a howl- 
ing and tearing among the trees, that to hsten 
in the silent night, you would fancy there 
would not be a branch left by the morning. 
This, however, was only fancy, though several 



234 LUCY AYLMER. 

fine trees were very much injured, and among 
tliem, the Countess's favourite, a Cedar of 
Lebanon, which stood just outside the hbrary 
window, and whose largest branch hung on 
the ground, carrying down with it many 
lesser ones in its fall. The Countess put on 
her bonnet immediately breakfast was over, 
and went out with the head gardener, to 
inquire into the state of the injured tree. 

" It will never look fit for anything now ; it 
must come down,'' she said, after a long 
investigation. " This wind must have done 
considerable injury." 

*'It has made sad work at the IManor 
House, your Ladyship," the gardener replied. 

" How ?" asked the Countess, " what has 
happened, Forbes ?" 

" A stack of chimneys fell in, your Ladyship, 
and the roof and part of the outer wall of the 
left wing have given way." 

" I ought to have heard of this before," 
observed the Countess. Then directing the 
gardener to consult Mr. Erresford about the 
tree, and ascertaining no one was hurt by the 
fall at the Manor, she went in and ordered her 
carriage to be ready immediately, to drive her 



LUCY AYLMER. 235 

to Mr. Neville's. The old lady liked an 
excitement, and, moreover, she thought the 
beauty of an excitement was to have it all to 
herself : so she told no one, but went alone to 
the Manor, in a high state of satisfaction with 
herself, for her neighbourly conduct. 

It was eleven o'clock, but they had only just 
got breakfast at the Squire's. Both the 
dining-room and lil^rary had suffered from the 
falling in of the wall, so the family ^vere all 
located in the dra^ving-room, and looked any- 
thing but comfortable. 

Poor Lucy, who had been terribly frightened 
by the noise and crash in the night, looked 
pale and ill, and was taking her breakfast close 
to the fire, on a low stool, with a chair for her 
table. 

The Squire, who had breakfasted some 
hours before, was sitting by Lucy's side, 
trying to tempt her into an appetite. Maude, 
whom nothing ever frightened or disturbed, 
was telling how she was awakened by such an 
odd noise, and how she expected every part of 
the house would have come down, as if no 
one had heard anything but herself. Augusta, 
who had been robbed of half her night's rest, 



236 LUCY AYLMER. 

looked wearied and cross; and Archer was 
reminding his brother, how often he had 
warned him that this falling in would take 
place, if he neglected the repairs so long : to 
which the Squire replied, it could not be 
helped, and the only thing to be done now, 
was to have it mended. 

" It is not patching and mending this house 
requires, but thorough good repairs — ^you may 
depend if you consult an architect, he will 
tell you so." 

Archer's advice seemed to exhaust him, for 
he refreshed himself with a great deal of 
coffee afterwards. 

" Bother take your architects !" exclaimed 
the Squire. " Come, Lucy bird, I did not 
know you would take anything so much to 
heart. Cheer up, little woman, the house did 
not fall on any of us !" 

'•' No, papa, I am not frightened now," and 
she laid her head wearily on her father's 
shoulder. 

" Why, it is a very silly little woman !" and 
the Squii*e put his arm coaxingly round his 
Lucy ; "I shall have to send you to town 
w4th Aunt Augusta, to learn how to bear ex- 



LTJCY AYLMER. 237 

citement." He looked more lovingly at her 
than before, and as if nothing should ever 
make him part with her, 

"If vou sent the orirls to town with me, 
Phil, you would be doing a very sensible 
thing ;" said iVugusta, rousing herself. 

" A very sensible thing !" echoed the Squire, 
measuring his words slowly, and glancmg at 
his sister with a mischievous smile. 

Augusta took no notice of this. " It is a 
perfect shame," she continued, " to bury their 
talents in this remote little nook. Lucy has a 
very sweet voice; but it will never be any 
pleasure either to herself or others, unless it is 
cultivated — and there are no singing masters 
here. Maude would make quite a linguist, if 
she had opportunities of study ; but if she never 
move from Forsted, she will not even have a 
correct accent in French." 

" Tut, tut !" said the Squire, " do you 
think my Lucy bird here would be a bit 
happier if she sang like your famous Miss Lind, 
or Maude be as merry if her poor head were 
crammed with foreign grammars ?" 

Augusta gave a little vexed laugh. " I do 



238 LUCY AYLMER. 

not think you would care, Phil, if the girls 
were as ignorant as milkmaids." 

" They are clever enough," replied the good- 
tempered Squire. 

" Really, Phil, you will not let one have the 
satisfaction of being angry with you," said 
Augusta leaning back in her chair. 

" Oh, here is a carriage !" exclaimed Maude 
starting up. 

" Lady De Walden ! — Wliat in the name of 
fortune does she want at this unearthly hour ?" 
said Augusta. 

" And in such a mess !" added Maude, who 
appeared possessed with a sudden fit of neat- 
ness ; for she aimed at every one's cup, and 
hurried them all together, so that the Squire 
called out, "I say, Maude, what are you 
after ?" and Archer, who received some coffee 
on a neat plan of alterations he was drawing 
in his pocket-book, exclaimed in a low tone, 
" little fool !" The words seemed to be meant 
for the Countess, who came in at that 
very moment unannounced, and wonderfully 
cordial. 

"We are in an odd state to receive your 



LUCY AYLMER. 239 

Ladyship, but the fact is, the wind took to 
playing pranks in the night, and blew us all 
out of our beds, with the roof tumbhng about 
us," said the Squire, who was never put out by 
anything. 

'' Do come near the fire. Lady De Walden, 
if you can get to it," said Augusta, who the 
grander her guests, the grander was her 
demeanour towards them. 

" Oh ! pray let me sit anywhere," replied the 
Countess, accommodating herself on a sofa ; 
and then taking a survey of the room, as if to 
ascertain the walls would not come down 
about her head, she continued : "I could not 
rest till I had come over and ascertained the 
real state of the mischief your house had 
sustained, and really it looks very appalling to 
see the walls lying in ruins." 

"It is very good of your Ladyship to visit 
us in our tumble-down state," said the Squii'e. 
" However, in a few weeks I hope we shall be 
all straight again." 

" A few weeks, Mr. Neville !" exclaimed the 
Countess. " They must be very skilful workmen 
who could repair this damage in so short a time." 

" Your Ladyship's opinion coincides with 



240 LUCY AYLMER. 

my own," said Archer, who was adding to his 
plan an estimate of expenses. 

" When once workmen enter this house, 
they will find plenty to be done, besides re- 
pairing the damages of last night," said 
Augusta. " There is not a room or passage 
which does not require lathe or plaister to 
keep it whole. Your ladyship cannot possibly 
have an idea how crazy the house is." 

" My brother and sister are such fine folks !'' 
remarked the Squire laughing. "They must 
have everything new and town-like, or else it 
does not please them." 

" Absurd '."murmured Augusta, ''but surely, 
my dear Phil, there is no sense in building up 
one wing and leaving the rest in such a state, 
that the next puff of wind will blow it all 
down ?" 

The Countess looked around the room 
again : the paper was worn and discoloured, 
and the ceiling looked yellow and blotted. 
" I think there is great truth in what Miss 
Neville says," she remarked. " It is much the 
better plan to have alterations concluded all at 
one time, than perpetually to see a succession 
of repairs going on." 



LUCY AYLMER. 241 

The Squire smiled, and said good-humour- 
edly, " well, your Ladyship, I suppose I must 
see about it." 

" And in the meantime," continued the 
Countess, "I hope you will m^ke the Castle 
your home. It is impossible for you to con- 
tinue here, in this state of discomfort." 

" Your Ladyship is very good," "replied the 
Squire, "but there are plenty of rooms yet, 
quite sound and whole." 

" Still the inconvenience would be great — 
workmen in and out all day, and open doors 
and draughts, you would all be invalids through 
influenza, by the time the house was restored ! 
Indeed," the Countess added, " the thing is 
impossible." 

"I have been endeavouring to persuade 
my brother to allow my nieces to return to 
town with me," said Augusta. 

" That will be a very good plan hereafter," 
replied the Countess, " but for the present, 
do not think of it, I must have you all at 
Castle St. Agnes." 

Maude hoped her father would consent. A 
few weeks at the Castle would be charming ! 

VOL. I. M 



242 LUCr AYLMER. 

Lucy, however, preferred the quiet of home, 
except that she would see more of Lady Mora, 
to whom she felt quite attached. But the 
Countess was so pressing in her hospitalities 
that the Squire found no way of escape, even 
had he wished it. There was the least 
possible gleam of triumph in Archer's eyes, 
as the Countess De Walden drove away to 
prepare her family for their reception. Archer 
was thinking how he would be thrown with 
the Lady Plora ! 

Had the honourable-minded Squire guessed 
what Avas passing in the mind of his brother, 
would he not have undergone any incon- 
venience, any discomfort, rather than that a 
member of his family should betray the 
Countess's hospitality, and bring sorrow and 
discord within the walls of Castle St. Agnes ? 

Mr. Neville had plenty of friends besides 
the noble lady at the Castle : any one of his 
hunting companions would have turned out 
of doors to accommodate the Squire's family ; 
and no less than three farmers had already 
ridden over to the Manor, to offer their ser- 
vices, for the Squire was a favourite all the 



LUCY AYLMER. 243 

neighbourhood round. Robert Aylmer came 
in soon after the Countess had left, to place the 
Parsonage at their disposal. How gladly would 
he have taken them all in, and how glad to 
feel that through the bounty of his beloved 
patron, he was in a position, to repay, in some 
measure, the kindness of the Squire, his 
father's old friend ! But the Countess had 
anticipated him. She had not half such a good 
heart as the young clergyman, but she had 
more energy and promptitude ; and, therefore, 
it happened, she was not so often disappointed. 

The Squire and Archer were somewhere 
among the ruins, and Augusta and Maude 
were packing and making arrangements for 
their departure, and when Robert came into 
the drawing-room, he found Lucy alone, lying 
back in an easy chair by the fire. She rose as 
he entered, exclaiming — 

" Oh ! Robert, I am so glad you have come. 
Papa was beginning to thmk you had deserted 
us." 

" But you knew me better, Lucy," he said, 
as he gently and playfully replaced her in her 
arm-chair. 

" I imagined something had prevented you," 

M 2 



244 LUCY AYLMER. 

she replied, as she rested her fair cheek on 
her hand. 

" I put off some parochial visits yesterday, 
and found myself obliged to pay them this 
morning : some sick people had sent for me." 

'' You must tell papa this, Robert, for he 
does not like to think you forget us." 

" "Forget you !" he exclaimed, earnestly ; 
" your father cannot surely imagine it for a 
moment ?" 

" Do not look so grave, Robert," said Lucy, 
with a sweet, languid smile ; " papa likes you 
next to us, and he is disappointed if he does 
not see you often," 

" I must make my peace with him," rephed 
Robert ; " but, dear Lucy, you look so ill, it 
quite grieves me ! Were you so very much 
alarmed last night ?" 

" Yes, very, very much," replied Lucy, 
" and it made my heart beat so, I thought it 
would never stop." 

" Poor, dear Lucy 1" said Robert, and he 
stroked gently the fair, small hand, that rested 
on her elbow chair. " They were sworn brother 
and sister to the end of time !" The Squire 
had said so, and it seemed probable, for Lucy 



LUCY AYLMER. 245 

looked up with a smile at Robert, as if it 
were the most natural thing in the world, he 
should stroke her hand and call her " dear 
Lucy !" 

" You cannot think how terrible it was !" she 
continued. " We were all asleep, and it was 
quite dark, there came such a dreadful crash ! 
I thought directly of papa, but it was not at 
his end of the house — the chimneys fell just 
over your old room. You recollect that crack 
down the wall that Robins would not put any 
mortar to, because he said it was lucky ? Well, 
Robert, directly the chimneys feU, that gave 
way quite down to the library. I thought we 
should all be killed ; but INIaude was so 
courageous, I do believe I should have died 
with fear, if it had not been for Maude !" 

" Then we must retiun Maude a vote of 
thanks for keeping you alive, Lucy-bird !" said 
Robert gaily. 

" I am a sad coward, Robert," continued 
Lucy, rather mournfully, "for I could not 
even speak till I knew papa was safe. He 
came to our room directly the crash and noise 
were over — for none of us dared move till 
then : no one knew what part of the house 



246 LUCY AYLMER. 

would come down next — it was such a dread- 
ful time, Robert !" 

" I can perfectly imagine it, dear Lucy, but 
it is all over now." 

"Papa tells me so also, but it seems to 
haunt me." 

" My poor Lucy ! what can I do for you ?" 
said Robert, coaxingly. 

" Oh, nothing, thank you, Robert," then 
she added, after a moment's silence. " We are 
going to Castle St. Agnes by and by." 

" What for ?" asked Robert. 

" Lady De Walden has asked us all to stay 
tiU the poor old house is repaired." 

Robert looked very much disappointed. 

" I am so sorry," he exclaimed. " I am too 
late as usual !" Lucy looked up enquiringly. 
" I came to offer my parsonage to you all," 
he continued, " it would have been such a 
pleasure." 

" Never mind, Robert," said Lucy, in her 
turn becoming comforter, " you can often see 
us at Castle St. Agnes — ^you are so veiy inti- 
mate with Mr. Erresford." 

" Seeing you under CeciFs roof, is not the 
same as having you under my own." Robert 



LUCy AYLMER. 247 

was mortified, because he saw tlie fault was 
his. If, instead of wasting away two whole 
hours in indecision on the previous afternoon, 
he had visited his sick parishioners, the morn- 
ing would have been his own ; and had he 
come early, no doubt he would have secured 
the Nevilles as his guests. He did not msh 
them to go to the Castle. When there, Lucy 
must necessarily be much with Cecil Erres- 
ford — Cecil was handsome and more attractive 
than his protege. Robert knew this, and 
dreaded its influence over Lucy, his dear, dear 
sister ! and something more she was to him — 
yes, from a sister she had grown into the one 
dear object of his life. 

" Lady De Walden thinks it will take a 
very long time before the house is fit to re- 
ceive us again," said Lucy, with a sigh. 

" Then I should not wonder if Miss Neville 
were to take you to town," replied Robert. 

" Oh, I hope not !" exclaimed Lucy ; " the 
poor, dear old house !" she added, a slight 
shade of sorrow in her tone, "I am so sorry 
it must be altered." 

'' Why altered ?" asked Robert. 

" Uncle Archer thinks so." 



248 LUCY AYLMER. 

" Why, Lucy, you appear quite sad, so un- 
like your usual self." 

" I did not mean to be so," replied Lucy, 
" but last night seems like an uncomfortable 
dream. I have loved the old house so long, 
and imagined it would always stand just the 
same." 

"And there is no occasion for it to be 
altered," said Robert, " only rendered strong 
and secure. If it would not fatigue you, Lucy, 
we might go and find your father. I think the 
air will revive you, what say you, dear Lucy ?" 

"Yes, Robert, I will come," she rose 
slowly ; and they went away together into the 
ruins, Lucy's arm linked in his, and he 
feeling proud and happy. 

The Squire readily accepted Robert's 
apologies, seemed pleased at his invitation 
to the parsonage, and in answer to Robert's 
expressions of disappointment, replied — 

" Never mind, Robert, we will knock down 
another wing on purpose to come and stay 
with the Parson. I know my girls would have 
liked it ; and if this mending is to be about as 
long as my good friends predict, we shall tire 
the Countess's patience and come to you yet." 



LUCY ATLMER. 249 

" If you do not go to London," remarked 
Robert. 

" As if that is likely," said the Squire. " I 
shall be wanted here on the spot to look 
after the men and keep them up to their 
work." 

"A kind of master-bricklayer," observed 
Archer, who was standing with his arms 
folded behind him. 

" Oh, you are too fine !"' said the Squire, 
"pretty havoc I shall have with my place, 
if I do not keep my eye tolerably sharp upon 
it!" • 

"Well, there is nothing to be done yet," 
added Archer, walking away, and casting as 
he went, a furtive glance at Lucy leaning still 
on Robert's arm. 

" I want to walk round the grounds," Lucy 
said, as her father was called away to speak 
with a groom. "Will you come, Robert? 
I could not go without taking one look at our 
old haunts." 

" Come then, dear Lucy, but you must not 
look on this place, as if you were never to see 
it again." 

" Oh ! I do not feel that, RobertJ only I 

M 3 



250 LUCY AYLMER. 

may never see it as it is now — the workmen 
will trample down the gardens — I know they 
will not be able to help it/' and she turned 
round with a sweet smile to Robert, who was 
looking at her. 

They went across the hall, where Lucy 
equipped herself in an old bonnet and shawl, 
and then out by a back door into the garden. 
The wind was blowing quite a hurricane still ; 
it sent the white clouds fast before it, and 
left spaces of deep, lovely blue sky, where the 
sunshine came. 

" The wind is giving us sunshine to make 
amends for the dangerous frolics of last 
night," said Robert. '' and I declare, Lucy, it 
has brought quite a colour to your cheeks." 

" I have to thank you, Robert, for bringing 
me out," she replied. " I do so love the fresh 
air : papa always calls it the best medicine." 

" I wonder what you will do with yourself 
at the Castle, Lucy," Robert said. 

" I cannot tell. I shall try and keep with 
Maude, and," she added, " with Lady 
Mora." 

"Poor girl!" ejaculated Robert. 

"' Do you mean me ?" asked Lucy laugh- 



LUCY AYLMER. 251 

ing : she was fast recovering her spirits with 
Robert. 

" You ! what an idea, Httle Lu !" and 
Robert laughed also. 

" I wish there were some flowers out/' said 
Lucy. 

" Shall I try to find you one ?" asked 
Robert. 

" Oh, you cannot !" Lucy replied. 

" You challenge me now, Lucy. Whht will 
you give me, if I do ?" 

" I will see when you have found it," and 
again Lucy laughed. 

The garden looked chill and drear ; the earth 
was clodded and hard in the flower beds, and 
shrubberies — and in the kitchen garden, the 
forcing frames and hand glasses were almost 
sunk in straw. Lucy and Robert went 
slowly along the walks, the one still clinging 
trustingly to the other's arm. They both 
looked very happy, very untouched by the 
world, as they sought so carefully for a flower. 
Now and then Robert- would dart fonvard 
with an exclamation of triumph, and find 
what he fancied a crocus or snow-di-op, only 
a withered leaf, or piece of white cotton. 



252 LUCY AYLMER. 

strayed and blown away from some window 
by the wind. 

Lucy laughed with a child-like glee at his 
mistakes ; and Robert was so delighted with 
her soft, sweet mirth, that he added to his 
hunts after imaginary flowers, just to call forth 
her blithe voice and smile. There was not a 
flower in the shrubberies or borders. Robert 
was, at length, forced to give up, and then 
they went round the kitchen garden to take 
what Lucy would persist in calling — a last 
look. The white masses of cloud had been 
blown together in one spot, till they formed a 
perfect mountain in the heavens, and obscured 
the sunbeams partially for some moments ; 
then suddenly, the whole snowy mass moved 
slowly along, and the sun laughed on the 
earth once more. Lucy and Robert had been 
watching it with admiration, till the light 
shone upon their faces, and caused them to 
look away ; when all at once, Robert dropped 
Lucy's arm, and darted forward, exclaiming, 
" lo triumphe ! sweet Lucy, you are van- 
quished !" he knelt on one knee by the sunny 
side of a forcing frame; Lucy came up to 
him, and with her hands folded, looked down, 



LUCY AYLMER. 253 

and then she saw a sweet white snow- drop, 
bending on its slender green stem. He 
picked it gently, and placed it in her hand — 
she held it there, and cast on it her loving 
eyes — Robert rose, saying : 

"There, Lucy, what will you give me 
now ?" 

" Oh, it is so beautiful ! I ought to give you 
another flower in return — dear little mnter 
thing 1" Lucy pressed it to her lips ; " flowers 
are such companions to me, I love them like 
sisters," she said. 

"What will you do with it?" Robert 
asked. 

" Keep it always," she replied." " I shall 
put it in water, and when it fades, I shall 
seal it up, oh, so carefully ! in a paper 
shroud." 

" In remembrance of our walk, Lucy ?" 

" Yes, and because I love the flower, too ! 
Do you know, Robert," she said, gravely, as 
they walked on, " I sometimes think, after we 
are dead, how strange and trifling our little 
treasures must be to those who remain 
behind — faded flowers, scraps of favomite 



254 LUCY AYLMER. 

poetry, and 'ittle locks of hair !" she looked 
up expecting an answer. 

'' How came you to think of such dismal 
things, Lucy?" said Robert, seriously. 

"Oh! I think of many such things,'' she 
replied, " and they do not make me dismal." 

They did apparently make Robert think so, 
for he turned almost abruptly the conversation 
back to the flower, and said : 

" I must have some remembrance of this 
walk. What shall it be, Lucy ?" 

She looked around, and then said : 

" I do not know." 

The bonnet Lucy wore, was a very old 
one, and on one side a little piece of ribbon 
hung down, only attached by a thread. 
Robert very quietly jerked this off. 

" Here is my trophy, Lucy !" he exclaimed, 
then, folding it up carefully, he put it in his 
pocket-book. He had forgotten all about 
Cecil Erresford now ; and was so completely 
happy, wandering about with his Lucy, that 
all life seemed glad to him ; and he felt as if 
he, too, could dance along with the wild, 
frolicking wind. How gladly hfe would 



LUCT AYLMER. 255 

begin if he coiild win his Lucy, and when 
won, how he would treasure her, how he 
would love her ! Nothing should ever come in 
and destroy the exquisite harmony of their 
young hearts. The wind blew T\'ildly along, 
and seemed to carrv on its blast an echo to 
his thoughts — " nothing should distui'b their 
harmony !" and the echo replied in a deep, 
warning tone — " nothing I" 



256 liUCT AYLMER. 



CHAPTER XI. 

" If we are not just the thing in our niche at home, I don't 
think we can do much good elsewhere," 

The Lady Anne Erresford sat in her own 
apartments, embroidering ornamental crosses 
in gold silk, on a deep blue ground. On a 
table before her stood a gotliic book-stand, -, 
supporting an open book: the pages were 
decorated with an elaborate border of many 
colours, and illustrations corresponding with 
the subject; the binding was black carved 
wood with one plain smooth cross on each side. 
It wore the appearance of a missal of Catholic 
Rome, but the disguise hid the ritual of Pro- 
testant England. The Lady Anne paused 
occasionally in her work, and conned over the 
services of the day. The second lesson was the 



LUCY AYLMER. 257 

fonrtli chapter of St. ^latthew's Gospel. Lady 
Anne read it in a listless manner, until she 
came to the tenth verse, the words arrested her 
attention : she read them again — " Thou shalt 
worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt 
thou serve." The warm colour came rushing 
to Lady Anne's haughty brow : the sentence 
seemed to stand there, and accuse her — she 
put out her hand to close the book, and as she 
did so, the purple velvet band from her neck 
caught her finger, and a heavy gold cross swung 
round against her face. She took it gently in 
her hand, and replaced it with a reverent 
touch, within the folds of her dress ; and she 
closed hastily her emblazoned service, saying 
in an audible whisper, " The Padre Anastasio 
spoke with reason, ' to the consecrated ones 
alone belongs the free reading of the Bible.' " 
At an opposite end of the wide apartment, 
almost concealed by a heavy frame of canv ass- 
work, traced over with a pattern similar to the 
one Lady Anne herself embroidered — sat a 
foreign looking woman, short in stature, with 
a pale, dark complexion, long, thin featiu'es, 
and black eyes, small and piercing, like beads. 
She had been covertly watching the Lady 



258 LUCY AYLMER. 

Anne — seen ber stop with troubled mien in 
her reading, close the Bible, and reverence the 
cross — and she said within her heart, " surely 
the Church's triumph draws near 1" 

The Lady Anne leant back in her chair, and 
passed her hand musingly across her brow, — 
" Agnese," she said, addressing, in a command- 
ing tone, the figure now so zealously bending 
over the work. In an instant the needle was 
dropped, and Agnese stood by her side. 
"Bring me more wool, more of the bleu f once 
— and remove the book from the stand, I 
require it no longer." 

Agnese moved to obey — the Lady Anne 
also moved across with stately and dignified 
step to the work the other had just left. 

" You progress, Agnese," she said patronis- 
ingly, as she bent over the beautiful colours. 

" It will be my Lady's Easter offering," was 
the reply, spoken in tolerable Enghsh, though 
with an accent purely Italian. 

The Lady Anne vouchsafed no notice, but 
asked : " Have you yet designed the pattern for 
the border ?" 

" My Lady, no — that is to say not in draw- 
ing, but in my mind I have arranged a series 



LUCY ATLMER. 259 

of scrolls, one transfixing the other at intervals, 
and so forming ovals, which each in its turn 
is to contain the fleur-de-lis and the cross of 
the Knights of ^lalta. Does this please my 
Lady? 

" I can scarcely tell," replied Lady Anne, 
thoughtfully. " Can you not make the design, 
and have it ready this evening for my ap- 
proval?" 

" My Lady, yes," said the little Italian 
briskly ; " by this evening, when my Lady 
makes her toilette ?" 

" Yes, Agnese, then ; but is the pattern one 
entirely of your own invention, or have you 
copied it ?" 

" Do you remember the private chapel of 
the Marches a Elmo in Kome ?" 

" I do," Lady Anne replied, still bending 
over the work, as though she did not even 
know of Agnese's presence. 

"And does my Lady call to mind the 
altar carpet worked by the pure hands of the 
nuns of the Convent of the Blessed Virgin?" 
Agnese bowed low, and performed the sign of 
the Cross with great reverence. 

" It was from there you took your design 



260 LUCY AYLMER. 

— yes, I see — you could not have it from a 
better copy." 

" I am honoured in my Lady's approval," 
was the humble reply. 

A low knock sounded at the door ; and a 
voice scarcely less humble than Agnese's, 
asked admittance, " Anne, may I come 
in?" 

The Lady Anne turned her haughty face 
round, as her sister entered slowly and timidly ; 
" Have I disturbed you, Anne ?" Flora asked. 

"Not at all," was Lady Anne's short 
reply. 

Flora crossed the room, and looked at 
Agnese's work. " What beautiful colours ! 
you have nearly finished, Agnese ?" 

" There is much yet to complete," the 
Italian replied smiling. " Does my Lady Flora 
approve ?" she added. 

"It is very gay and pretty," Flora replied. 

" Gay and pretty 1" echoed Lady Anne, 
throwing a shght contempt into her voice. 

"Am I not right, Anne?" asked Lady 
Flora. 

" Gay and pretty are words which apply to 
toys and trifles, but not to ecclesiastical 



LUCY ATLMER. 261 

decorations," Lady Anne said in a patronising 
tone. 

" I do not understand you, Anne," replied 
Flora pettishly. 

Lady Anne returned to the table, took up 
her own work, and went on mth it. Agnese 
also resumed her seat, and continued making 
crosses over the coarse canvass. Flora remained 
standing with her eyes still on the work, and 
an anxious and distressed expression on her 
brow. She w^as disappointed in her sister's cold 
reception, and looked very much as though she 
wished to make some remark, and was trying 
to suppress it. 

There was a moment's silence, and then 
Flora said ; " I do not think there is much use 
in working all that for Forsted chm'ch." 

Flora paused to receive the reply she had 
provoked, but none came. This made her feel 
doubly annoyed, and she continued, " Cecil, 
will never allow it to be put down." 

" Is Cecil the officiating priest ?" asked Lady 
Anne, looking at her sister with a cold, un- 
comfortable stare. 

" You know as well as I do, Anne, that 
Mr. Aylmer is the clergyman of Forsted." 



262 LUCY AYLMER. 

Lady Flora laid a great stress on the word, 
" clergyman." 

" In that case, what has Cecil to do with 
my gifts to St. Walburga?" asked Lady 
Anne, with her eyes still on Mora, in a 
way as if Flora were not there, and she 
were looking at the wall, or any other 
inanimate object. 

Lady Flora's pale face became suffused with 
an angry colour ; her hps trembled, and her 
eyes grew moist : she stood quite still for 
several moments, and put a strong command 
on herself. 

Lady Anne's eyes fell again on her work — 
Lady Flora's moment of irritation passed 
away, and was succeded by an appealing look 
of sorrow that would have distressed Lord 
Glen do wan — it was so humble, so imploring ; 
it seemed to speak to Lady Anne, and say, 
" Why will you not love me ?" 

Again the Italian looked up, a stolen, hasty 
glance. " The Lady Anne," she thought, 
" would grace the highest order of sisterhood 
in our Holy Church, all the passions so 
subdued and kept under !" 

Then Flora spoke, " Mamma sent me to 



LUCY AYLMER. 263 

you, Anne, she wishes you to know that the 
NeAoQes will arrive here this afternoon." 

" Indeed ! are they coming for the evening?" 

"No, to stay with us. Did you not hear 
about their house ?" 

" I never hear common gossip ; my mind is 
so closely employed, that time fails me for 
trifles." 

Again Lady Flora looked vexed. " It is 
no trifle," she replied, " that the Manor House 
has partly fallen in." 

" I see now ! and they are coming to take 
up their abode with us; — bon ! does my mo- 
ther require me ?" 

" No," said Flora, sadly, " but you would 
not like visitors to arrive without any previous 
intimation ?" 

" That is not likely," Lady Anne observed. 
'' Agnese," she said suddenly, " your wools are 
not a match." 

" My Lady, no," her attendant was by her 
side in a moment. 

" We must send to town ; these Arminster 
shops are worth nothing." 

" Ah 1 the beautiful cushion Avill be spoiled," 
said the Italian, in a theatrical tone. 



264 LUCY AYLMER. 

" A cushion !" exclaimed Flora. 

Lady Anne and her attendant continued to 
bend with interest over the ill-assorted wools. 

Flora moved to the door. *' The Nevilles 
arrive some time before dark," she said. 

" You must take that side completely out, 
Agnese," observed Lady Anne. 

" And so beautifully done ; such precision — 
such accuracy ! it surpasses the draperies of 
the Marchesa Elmo !" 

Lady Anne looked at Agnese as she had 
done at Flora, as though she saw her not. 

" The clock is striking one ; Anne, are you 
coming down ?" poor Lady Flora ! she woidd 
not give up trying to obtain her sister's 
notice. 

" The bell has not yet rung," Lady Anne 
rephed, without looking up. " Agnese, I can 
work no longer, these false colours annoy me !" 
She rose — ^Flora was opening the door to 
let herseK out ; she held it and let Lady Anne 
pass, who went sweeping down the passage in 
her dark rustling silk, hke the Lady Abbess 
of some old convent. Flora went slowly up 
to her own turret, and took out her pencil 
drawing of Lucy : it was finished, and looked 



LUCr AYLMER. 265 

serenely and placidly at her, she sighed as she 
thought, '' how much happier is Lucy Neville 
than I." 

All that afternoon the Lady Anne spent 
among her poor — It was the eve of the 
Epiphany, and the tracts she distributed bore 
reference to that and other festivals. The 
villagers were growing mystified over Lady 
Anne's instructions ; and one old woman, with 
more boldness than the rest, told her, that one 
verse of Miss Lucy's reading did her more 
good than all her Ladyship's hard tracts ; and 
she would rather not have any more. " She 
wasted understanding enough," she said, "in 
them tracts." Nevertheless, Lady Anne left 
one on a due observance of Holy Days, and 
departed. About an hour after, the Squire came 
in. The old woman's son w^as a bricklayer, 
and Mr. Neville wanted to speak to him about 
the repairs. Lady Anne's tract lay untouched 
on the dresser : the print was large, the title 
attractive ; the Squire took it up, and looked at 
it carelessly. " Heigho ! Sarah, what have you 
got here ?" he called out, " have you turned 
Papist ?" 

'* Bless you, Sir, no ! I he's as good a 

VOL. I, N 



266 LUCY AYLMER. 

Christian as any in the village ! Ask Miss 
Lucy, Sir." 

" Miss Lucy never gave you this, I will be 
bound !" the Squire said, " it is not fit you 
should read it." 

The writer told the pubhc, if they did 
not attend service on Saints' Days he 
trembled for their souls ; and the reason 
they did not observe Saints' Days was, that 
Satan, the father of lies, had perverted their 
minds ; and if they did not reverence the 
memory of the Saints on earth, how could they 
expect to join them in Heaven ! The epithet 
the Squire bestowed on the tract after reading 
this was not elegant : he put the pamphlet in 
his pocket and told the old woman again, that 
it was not fit for her. She seemed quite con- 
tented, and said, " she'd as lief he'd have it, for 
she warn't one to harbour bad books." So 
off" went the Squire with Lady Anne's 
tract in his pocket ; and he carried it 
straight to the parsonage, where Robert 
Aylmer was composing a very prosy sermon 
in his study. 

" I say. Bob, look at this !" the Squire threw 
down the ofiending tract on Robert's writing- 



LUCY AYLMER. 267 

table, and then planted himself with his back 
to the fire. 

Robert glanced at the title, then at the 
opening page, and reddening a little, asked 
the Squire where he got it. 

" From one of your parishioners, old Sarah. 
I should think she w^ould become precious 
pious after reading that 1" 

"It is rather strange," said Robert. 

" Rather strange, do you call it ? I say 
it is rather had. Are we Roman Catholics, or 
are we not ? — because if we are, it is no con- 
sequence, let these things be distributed ; but 
if we are Protestants, w^hy stop them and burn 
them; but don't let your parishioners be 
tampered with like this !" The Squire had 
never been so indignant before ; he had taken 
up the tract while he was speaking, and now 
threw it down again. 

" It is Lady Anne's doing. I cannot help 
it," said Robert quietly. 

" Then you ought to help it !" the Squire 
replied. " What is the use of a parson, if he 
does not protect his parish from papists ?" 

Robert smiled. " Would you have me 
wage war with Lady Anne ?" 

N 2 



268 LUCY AYLMER. 

" Oh ! you are too easy by half," said the 
Squire. " If I stood in your shoes, my good 
fellow, I would soon let the Lady Anne know 
my opinion !" 

" And quarrel with my patron's sister !" 
observed the passive Robert. 

" That patron of yours seems a bug-bear !'' 
said the Squire. " A man has only got to say 
he is hundreth cousin to Erresford, and you 
would let him alone — if he meant to blow vour 
brains out !" 

" I never saw you so annoyed before, Sir," 
said Robert svirpressing a smile at his 
vehemence. 

"Yes, I am annoyed, because I see pretty 
fairly what it will come to. My Lady goes 
about with her beggarly little tracts, and the 
Dissenters and people think they are the views 
of our church, and so they become disgusted, 
and well they may ! — and set to and build a 
chapel. As a natural result, the people get 
divided, and fall to bickerings and peri)etual 
strifes. But I say these tracts are not the 
views of our church ; the prayer-book doesn't 
tell us — at least mine does not — that T am a 
lost man because I go a-hunting on Saints' 



LUCY AYLMER. 269 

Days. They are popish tracts — nasty, sneaking 
things ! done up in disguise sauce, to make 
their rehgion palatable. But they shall not 
make their rehgion palatable to me !" 

" I am afraid Lady Anne and you will fall 
out before you have been very long at Castle 
St. Agnes," said Robert. 

" Then you must come to keep the peace !" 
the Squire yawned. " Why it is four o'clock 
by the church ! — Brother, take that sneaking 
little tract ! I was to have been home before 
three. Good bye, Bob, old boy ! I was hot, 
wasn't I?" The Squire recovered his good 
humour in a moment. 

" You certainly treated the subject warmly," 
Robert replied. 

" Well, never mind," rejoined the Squire, 
" if your parishioners all play ' Follow my 
leader' over to Rome, with starchy Anne at 
their head, it will not be for want of my 
warning !" 

Robert Aylmer smiled as he watched Squire 
Neville off, and then returning to his study, 
he put the tract in a drawer, and went on 
unconcernedly with his sermon, as if there 
existed no such church as Rome, and as 



270 LUCY AYLMER. 

tliougli her deadly poison did not spread 
through every town and parish of merry Eng- 
land ! 

Lady Anne did not make her appearance in 
the drawing-room that evening, till a few 
moments before dinner was announced. The 
Nevilles had arrived, but it was impossible to 
judge by her manner, if she were pleased 
or otherwise, by their presence. She gave 
her hand formally to each, asked a few 
questions about the disaster at the Manor 
House, and then relapsed into silence, con- 
fronting a high mirror, which reflected back 
the ample folds of her black lace flounces. 

"You have made yourself scarce to-day, 
Anne," Cecil said!" 

" Have you been all the day at home ?" she 
replied. 

" In and out at intervals ; yet not even your 
shadow have I seen since breakfast." 

" No loss, I imagine !" and Lady Anne's 
compressed lips parted and smiled. 

" That remains with me to decide," rejoined 
Cecil playfully. 

Lucy was sitting a little way ofl", on the 
edge of a sofa, talking to no one, and dreading 



LUCY AYLMER. 271 

dinner. Lady Anne saw her in tlie mirror : 
she turned suddenly round, and asked her 
to come to the fire. Lucy appeared so small, so 
delicately fair, standing by the side of the tall, 
erect Lady Anne, that her ladyship looked 
down on her with quite a feeling of compassion. 
" You look paler than usual. Are you well ?" 

" Oh, yes, thank you !" said the timid Lucy. 
" I was only very frightened last night." 

Lady Anne had a way of carrying on a 
conversation by little detached sentences, one 
having no reference to the other. " Have 
you walked to-day ?" she asked. 

" Yes, in the garden with Robert." Lucy's 
cheek glowed at the remembrance. 

"You see Mr, Aylmer often, I think?" 
. " Nearly every day," said Lucy : she was 
becoming rather less timid. When the door 
opened, Lucy did not look round, but she 
heard the word ' dinner,' and there was an 
universal move. Lucy wished she could have 
slipped away unobserved. Archer Neville 
fetched Lady Anne away. Lucy bent her eyes 
very earnestly on the coals and smoothed a 
fold of her simple, white dress. She heard 
Cecil address some one with the words, " You 



272 LUCY AYLMER. 

are late !" and she imagined Cecil was coming 
towards her. How kind to think of her ! but 
kinder still she thought him, when he said 
playfully— 

" May I not waive an introduction ?" and 
he left Robert Ayhner to take down the fair, 
sweet Lucy. The dinner did not seem half 
so formidable now to Lucy, though there ap- 
peared what she called, ' a great bustle,' and 
the glare of light, and the long row of tall 
powdered servants quite bewildered her. At 
first, the number of dishes rather distressed 
her, because she fancied she was called upon 
to partake of so many ; but that trouble soon 
vanished, for Robert cared for her, and only 
gave her exactly what she liked ; and she 
thought how happy it was to be by him. 
Maude looked at Lucy from time to time, 
handsome, self-possessed Maude ! whom no- 
thing ever dismayed, from the falling in of 
the house, to the formalities of her first dinner- 
party ! Lucy wanted very much to smile 
back at Maude, only she fancied Lady Anne, 
who was on the opposite side of the table, 
would imagine she was laughing at her ; and 
that Lucy would not for the world have had 



LUCY AYLMER. 273 

happened, after Lady Anne's kindness in 
talking to her when she felt solitary. There 
was a great deal of conversation going on ; 
and Lucy thought every one very clever, for 
they talked of so many things she did not 
understand — things appertaining to London 
life — learned books — clever people — witty 
people — conversaziones — operas — on dits for 
the coming season — it quite amazed her. Au- 
gusta Neville had an immense amount of 
conversation, and talked in a dashing, brilliant 
style, which attracted in her London circles — 
Lucy wondered if she should ever be expected 
to converse like ' Aunt Augusta,' and hoped 
not ; for she was sure she never should be able ; 
and then she ceased to listen, and fell into a 
reverie about the Manor House and the alter- 
ations, and had almost forgotten the grand 
dinner party, when the Countess rose, and 
Lucy followed the other ladies back to the 
long reception room, looking up at the Coun- 
tess's head-dress and thinking how the 
diamond pins sparkled among the flowers. 
She felt solitary again, when they retm-ned to 
the drawing-room. Maude was getting on 
wonderfully : the Countess was talking to her. 



274 LUCY AYLMEK. 

SO Lucy did not dare join them, but Lady 
Flora came up softly — She wore a light blue 
dress, and a white camelha, Lord Glendowan 
had given her. Lucy thought her prettier than 
any one except Maude, and was glad when 
Mora took her hand. 

" You are so cold, Lucy ! come near the 
fire." People had a habit of making Lucy 
come near the fire. 

" Oh ! I am very comfortable, thank you," 
Lucy replied shyly. 

" You cannot be, you are so very cold — there 
is a chair close to the hearth rug." They drew 
near it, and Lady Flora said, " How little you 
are, Lucy. I should like to take you on my 
lap ; may I ?" 

Lucy said " Oh, yes !" 

So Flora sat down in the low chair and Lucy 
on her lap. 

Lucy softly put her arm round Lady Flora's 
neck ; she could not help it, for she loved 
Flora. 

" I am so glad you have come to stay with 
us, dear," and Flora kissed her. " I can see 
so much of you uoav — and I shall begin your 
painting. I showed Cecil the drawing, and he 



LUCY AYLMER. 275 

says it is exactly like you." Flora was brigh- 
tening. '' I looked at you several times during 
dinner," she added ; " I think you get on." 

" Yes, thank you," replied shy Lucy. 

" Cecil asked Mr. Aylmer on purpose for 
you, because he and I were so afraid you might 
not enjoy yourself." 

" It is so kind," said Lucy, drowsily, for 
she was growing sleepy by the fire. 

" Oh ! you must not go to sleep !" said 
Flora, coaxingly ; " mamma will want you to 
play by and bye." 

This roused Lucy effectually, and she ex- 
claimed — 

" Not I !" 

"Why not?" asked Flora. 

" Oh ! because I could not," said Lucy 
alarmed. " How could I ?" 

Flora laughed. 

" But you play, do you not, Lucy ?" 

" Only a very little," replied Lucy. 

*' You shall hear Lord Glendowan play," 
said Flora. " It is something worth listening 
to.'' 

" I shall enjoy it very much,'' rephed Lucy. 



276 LUCY AYLMER. 

" I like Lord Glendowan's face : he looks so 
good." 

" So he is," and Mora coloured. " I wish I 
were as good.'* 

Lucy laughed. 

" I am sure you are, Lady Flora. 

" Wait till you know me well, and then you 
will not say so." 

" The more I know you, the more I shall 
love you," replied Lucy. 

" I like being loved by such a good little 
thing as you ; it is a happiness in itself," said 
Lady Flora. 

Lucy was silent ; then suddenly she asked, 
" Are there any haunted rooms in this house, 
Lady Flora?" 

" Yes, I believe so, but you will not be put 
in one, dear." 

" Oh ! I was not afraid of that, only I do 
so delight in ghost stories," said Lucy, with 
all a child's animation at the prospect of 
hearing something marvellous. 

" You must get my brother Cecil to tell you 
some. He knows all the old traditions connected 
with the Castle. I believe my turret is reported 



LUCY ATLMER. 277 

to be haunted : it goes by the name of the 
ghost's tun'et/' 

"Wliat a spectral sounding name!" said 
Lucy, opening her eyes with earnestness. 

" I cannot tell you any more than that, dear ; 
you must coax Cecil for the tradition. Oh ! 
here they come." 

Lucy jumped up quickly ; and so did Lady 
Flora. They had quite burnt their faces over 
the fire, and now they retreated to an ottoman. 
Cecil came directly up to them. 

" A learned discussion, on what ?" He seated 
himself by Lucy. 

" Our subject was ghosts," replied Flora. 

" A ghostly night !" rejoined Cecil, " for the 
wind howls in a wild hurricane." 

"Just the time for ghost stories," said 
Flora. "Lucy wants you to enlighten her 
mind on the subject of the ghost's turret." 

" Does she ? and I do not think you have 
ever heard it, Flora. We will have it some 
night." 

" Relate it now !" said Flora. 

" Oh yes !" echoed Lucy. 

"What now ?" said Cecil. " It is not half 
dark enough to appreciate a ghost story : the 



278 LUCY AYLMER. 

fire ought to smoulder in fitful light, in a room 
full of shadows — the shadows of departed 
ghosts !" Cecil looked at Lucy, who smiled 
and seemed deeply interested. " If there are 
a few figures in armour round the walls," he 
went on, " so much the better ; and the wind 
must shriek and howl under the doors, and 
down the chimneys in tones of woe — and there 
ought not to be many persons in the room — 
the narrrator and about two or three auditors, 
their eyes very mde open, and hair all ready 
to stand upright, in case of need. Now judge, 
young ladies, if a ghost story could be enacted 
in this room full of lights : the spectre would 
never appear !" 

" That means we are not to have the tra- 
dition," said Flora. 

" Appoint any night, and any dark corner, 
and I will bring my ghost and begin ; but in 
this room — no ; it is out of the question." 

*' We shall not forget your promise, shall we, 
Lucy ?" Mora said. 

" Oh ! I shall remember it," replied Lucy 
eager for an exciting story — Oh when the 
story was told, how wearily it fell on the ears 
of one of the auditors ! 



LUCY AYLMER. 279 

The little party on the ottoman ceased their 
conversation. Augusta was singing, and Lord 
Glendowan playing an accompaniment The 
words were wild and melancholy, and ran as 
follows — 

" Lights and shades around us falling. 
To the hour of pray'r are calling ; 
And the priest low tolls the bell. 
While the nuns oft chaunt a knell — 
Chaunt a knell for the dead sister — 
Chaunt a deep, mysterious whisper. 

" Youngest of that dark-robed band 
Has pass'd away into the land. 
Where her sorrows all are gone ; 
Where there shines a holy mom ; 
Where the glorious angels keep 
Careful watch o'er the sister sweet. 

" The nuns chaunt on a low, low wail, 
' Our Eva died in the Church's pale.' 
Ah ! her soul escap'd the thrall. 
That darken'd o'er the sisters all. 
And broke the chains around her spread ; 
Then slept in peace, in her cold bed ! 

" A rumour dark on Eva hung. 
Dart as the pall around her flung. 
It whisper'd low — ' a silent death 
Had hush'd the lovely Eva's breath. 
* Eva the good ' — that dark deed gave 
Thy faithful heart to the cold grave. 



280 LUCY AYLMER. 

" Tlie knell was o'er : the maiden's doom 
Was hush'd beneath the silent tomb ; 
Yet still a stealthy whisper breathes. 
Amongst the nuns, of Saint Therese, 
' The abbess stern ; 'tis she knows well 
The cause of this mysterious knell !' " 



The music died away; there was a mo- 
ment's silence, then a burst of applause. 
The accompaniment was slow and dirge-like, 
nearly all on the low notes, exquisitely played 
by the composer ; for Lord Glendowan had 
arranged it himself to the words he found 
in Lady Flora's album. He had lent the 
book, some days back, to Miss Neville; and 
her splendid voice did justice to the melody. 
She sang con amore, though quietly, and 
with the utmost self-possession. It was so 
exquisite that it seemed to thrill through the 
audience. 

" We must have it again !" and Mora, 
almost breathless, laid her hand on Cecil's 
arm. The performers were encored. 

" On the organ, Glendowan, have it on 
the organ !" cried Lord Cecil. 

The Lady Anne's lip curled satirically at 
their enthusiasm, for they all flocked off" to 



LUCY AYLMER. 281 

the music-room. In the Catholic days of the 
castle, it had been a chapel ; but the lofty, 
arched roof, and long, ecclesiastical ^vindows 
were all that now remained of its original 
character. In the recess, where once holy 
water stood, now blazed a bright fire ; and 
opposite the fire towered high the large pipes 
of an organ. Lights were brought, and the 
organ's splendid tones filled and echoed 
through the lofty roof. Was ever performer 
like Glendowan ? Was ever songstress like 
Augusta ? There was a breathless silence in 
the Avhole room. The sounds floated in the 
air. Lucy stood close by her father, and his 
strong arm was round her. She was an 
ardent lover of music, and it had an over- 
powering influence on her. She fancied she 
heard the toUing bell — the dirge thrilled 
through her heart — she scarce breathed when 
the tomb closed o'er the lovely Eva. It was 
the first time she had heard really beautiful 
music, and she wondered if she should ever 
enjoy anything like it again. 

Archer Neville listened as though he heard 
not, his arms crossed, his eyes on the Lady 
Flora, who stood turned towards the organ. 



282 LUCY AYLMER. 

There were busy thoughts passing in Archer's 
mind — thoughts that would have made the 
Lady Mora start, had she but known them ; 
but she was totally unsuspecting, and listened 
attentively to Augusta's song. 



That night, when Lucy was going to sleep, 
Maude asked her how she had enjoyed her- 
self, to which Lucy replied, " It was all like 
a dream in a fairv tale !" 



LUCY AYLMER. 283 



CHAPTER XII. 

Good is a hundred — evil, but one : 
Round about goeth the golden sun. 

LEIGH HUNT. 

When the Squire thought calmly over the 
repairs required in the Manor House, he 
began to feel puzzled and anxious ; for 
should the sum necessary for the alterations 
be more than a few hundreds, it would not 
be at his command. Archer had sent to 
London for an architect ; and this architect, 
when he made his appearance, struck out 
into extensive plans for rebuilding the wing 
on a new and improved design, and making 
numerous alterations in the rest of the house 
— turning passages — raising ceilings — throw- 
ing out new windows. The Squire was rather 



284 LUCY AYLMER. 

mystified by the numberless professional sug- 
gestions made by the worthy gentleman on 
his perambulations over the house and 
grounds. The latter, he said, by a mere 
trifling expenditure, might be made a minia- 
ture Versailles — the situation so favourable, 
the soil so good. When complete, it would 
be a perfect Paradise for the ladies ! 

The Squire began to grumble, and, with 
his usual bluntness, candidly told the archi- 
tect he had not got the money for it, so it 
did not signify ! The architect was blandness 
itself, smiled incredulously at the Squire's 
poverty, talked about the antiquity of the 
Neville family, and the necessity of its repre- 
sentative keeping up the family grandeur. 
To all this, the Squire muttered a good- 
humoured " Bosh !" said he must think over 
it all, then asked the architect to come and 
see his hunters. The Squire loved his hunters 
next to his children, and was thoroughly 
proud of them : the Squire expected praise, 
and the architect bestowed it; but with a 
professional eye everywhere about him, he 
hinted improvements in the stables. The 
Squire lent an attentive ear — asked the pro- 



LUCY ATLMER. 285 

bable expense — said lie would think well over 
it, and send word in a day or two how his 
mind was made up. 

Now, it so happened that this architect was 
the personal friend of Archer. He had de- 
signed several great houses, and was received 
into good society ; moreover, he had married 
a pretty little Parisian wife, whose brother — 
a Count somebody-or-other — belonged to the 
number of hopeless admirers who frequented 
Augusta Neville's soirees. 

Archer Neville was a younger brother. He 
was aspiring, grasping, avaricious. It had been 
the one wish of his life, that to him, and not 
his brother, the ancestral estate should belong. 
He never visited Forsted, but he looked en- 
viously on the old Manor House, and longed 
that by some means it should become his ; but 
no means presented themselves. Sometimes 
the wish passed across his mind, unnaturally 
enough ! that his brother's daughters might 
die young. After them, he was next in kin : 
but they grew up strong in health, lovely in 
person, with every prospect before them of 
marrying well ; and then the estate would pass 
away from the name of Neville. 



286 LUCY AYLMER. 

Archer hated gusty, windy nights. The 
howHng blasts carried a melancholy with 
them ; but the wind that blew down the 
east wing of the Manor, he thought, would be 
a favourable wind to him — and why ? The 
reason was this — it suggested to him a means, 
deep and artful as his oAvn heart, for getting 
the old Manor into his power. He knew well 
enough, that his brother had no money to 
spare for repairs, and that if extensive altera- 
tions were entered into, the payments must be 
borrowed, and on some security — now the 
only security his brother had to give was the 
coveted Manor ! Archer would be the first 
to come forward wdth an offered loan, and 
into Archer's hands the Manor must eventually 
fall. He smiled over his scheme : it seemed 
a feasible one. All his persuasions were used 
to lead his brother into extravagant alterations : 
the family credit — the girls' comfort — and 
numberless insinuations which easily presented 
themselves to the intriguing Archer. His 
friend, the architect, received also instructions 
to use all his arguments ; for, said Archer, 
the name of Neville is disgraced by such 
neglect of its landed property, which, were it 



LUCT AYLMER. 287 

well looked after and carefully kept, would be 
a good fortune to its possessor. How Archer 
rejoiced that it was not entailed ! and to what 
good purpose he would put it, were it once 
in his power ! the farms and cottages, which 
now yielded their rents so uncertainly, and 
whose owners were never summoned or 
threatened by the Squire, how carefully Archer 
would improve them ! and woe be to the 
tenant who overlooked quarter-day ! So 
Archer built his castles, forgetting they were 
but airy ones, and could be blown do^vn as 
suddenly and unexpectedly as the old east 
wing at the Manor. 

The Squire wandered about among the 
grounds. The architect had left the Squire's 
mind full of plans and designs — plans, which 
were to turn the old Manor into a perfect 
palace, and the grounds into the gardens of 
Versailles. The Squire wished to goodness 
the wind had kept off, and let his old place 
alone. He was an old-fashioned man, and he 
hated alterations for their own sakes and his 
pockets' sake ; but somehow Archer had an 
influence over him ; and Archer having sent 
for the architect, the poor Squire thought it 



288 LUCY AYLMER. 

incumbent on him to accede to some of his 
plans — though where was the money to come 
from to carry on the alterations ? He did not 
like the idea of borrowing, even from his 
brother. The Squire grew restless, and 
walked musingly to and fro, quite a new thing 
for him, usually so light-hearted that no 
serious thought ever rested long on his mind. 
" Mr. Neville !" he heard his name called, and 
turned hastily round. It was Cecil Erresford 
he saw, and he felt lightened of his cares — 
There was a frank openness about Cecil that 
coincided with his own ; and he was at home 
in Cecil's society ; indeed he would rather have 
had it just then than his brother's. 

" You have a troublesome business in hand, 
I fear," said Cecil. 

" Oh 1 a bothering business," exclaimed the 
Squire, impatiently ; " but 1 am glad you have 
come upon me just now. I should like to have 
a little talk with you. I know you are a cool- 
headed fellow." 

" I must first deliver my message," rejoined 
Cecil. " Miss Lucy was very much distressed 
at your going out this morning without seeing 
her, for she had sundry enquiries, and, indeed. 



LUCY ATLMER. 289 

messages — about a dog called Tawny, and 
as I was going to ride across to Preston 
Hall, I promised to be the bearer of all the 
pretty things to the favoured animal." 

"Lor bless me, Erresford ! don't let the 
girls make a messenger of you ! you are 
too good-tempered. Tawny is safe enough. 
Robert has him at the parsonage ; I forgot to 
tell my Lucy, he is her especial pet." 

"That is off my mind," said Cecil, cheer- 
fully. " Now, Mr. Neville, our little talk !" 

" I will tell you what," began the Squire, 
somewhat abruptly, " I want your opinion 
about these repairs." 

" I will tell you what I think : the less you 
have to do with these repairs the better," said 
Cecil quietly. 

" You think so, do you ?" replied the Squire. 
" And so do 1, but what am I to do ? People 
worry me so about them." 

"Don't regard them; but use your own 
judgment," said Cecil. 

" What would you do, if you were in my 
place ?" the Squire asked. 

" I should build up the walls and make the 
roof sound." 

VOL. I. o 



290 LUCY AYLMER. 

" And the rest as before, as the doctors say 
on their bottles, eh, Erresford ?" 

" Exactly 1" replied Cecil laughing. 

" That is your advice ! well it is worth a 
fee. It will save my pockets from lightening. 
You see, Erresford," the Squire went on in his 
blunt way, " I am not a rich man, and I do 
not want to dabble in mortgages if I can help 
it, for the girls' sake." 

"Oh ! do anything rather than that," said 
Cecil, seriously ; "keep clear of mortgages." 

" Ah 1 they are ugly things, I grant you. 
Harry Ayhner got his ruin by them, and his 
children's too, pretty nearly." 

" Excuse me, Mr. Neville, but take that as 
a warning ; do not allow people even to tempt 
you with a kind intention." 

" Has Archer told you he offered me the 
money ?" said the Squire suddenly. 

" No, you told me yourself this morning." 

" Aye, so I did ! Archer is a good fellow, 
isn't he ? I believe he would give me all he 
had, if I asked him for it." 

" And you would give him all you had in 
return," said Erresford dryly. 

" How do you mean ?" asked the Squire. 



LUCr AYLMER. 291 

" Why mortgage the estate," replied 
Erresford. 

" True/' remarked the Squire. " I could 
scrape together a few hundreds without mort- 
gaging," he added, " and if the old place 
suited us before, it must suit us now." 

" I am sure the young ladies do not want 
their home altered," said Erresford : he tried 
every persuasion to save the Squire from the 
mortgage. 

*' I know they do not. Maude and Lucy 
are regular girls for keeping things just as 
they found them." 

" Well, surely, Mr Neville, most people have 
their children in view in everything they do," 
observed Cecil. 

" They ought," muttered the Squire, " but 
they don't always though." 

" The repairs in any way will take some 
weeks, and when they are over, you will be 
tired of seeing workmen about," said Cecil. 

" Must I put the patching up the wing in 
the hands of this architect ?" asked the Squire, 
who was almost as ignorant on business mat- 
ters as a child. 

"By no means," repHed Erresford, " let 

o 2 



292 LUCY AYLMER. 

Roberts of Taunton have the job, I know him 
well. I employed him at the Castle. Let 
him give you an estimate, and then make him 
keep to it ; the expense in that way will not 
be great. I imagine about three or four hun- 
dred. Whereas, if Phipps had a hand in it, 1 
would not name the thousands." 

" Thank you, Erresford," replied the Squire, 
" now I have your advice, 1 will stick to it." 

" It is not my advice, but your judgment : 
you see the thing clearly, do you not." 

"Don't I?" replied the Squire, "Phipps 
shall not have the job." 

" May I give you a word of advice without 
being thought impertinent ?" said Cecil. 

" Say on and welcome," replied the Squire. 

" Do not tell Phipps or your brother that 
my opinion influenced you. Mind I am not 
ashamed of my opinion, and if called upon, I 
would express it frankly ; but if the opinion 
comes from yourself, apparently unbiassed, it 
will have weight ; and the next time no one 
will try and impose upon you in matters of a 
similar kind." 

" You are a trump, EiTesford," said the 
Squire wannly, then resuming his former 



LUCY AYLMER. 293 

tone, he added, " Archer will be disappointed, 
he wants great things from me, he has a good 
heart ! but what is style — comfort is the 
thing." 

" We agree again, Mr. Neville," said Cecil 
smiling ; " and now will you ride with me to 
Preston HaU ?" 

" Thank you, no, I must be off after Phipps. 
I will dismiss the business at once. I hate 
shilly-shallying over things." 

Keen and sharp as was Archer, Cecil was a 
match for him in clear perception. He mis- 
trusted Archer — the clever barrister did not 
please him, there was a want of candour, want 
of openness — and this affair of the mortgage 
made him more suspicious. And Archer 
hated Cecil for his very openness and can- 
dour, and his quickness of perception ; and 
when the Squire met his brother, and com- 
municated his intentions respecting the 
Manor, Archer replied, " Well, do as you 
like, but Erresford has been influencing you." 

" It is my own judgment," answered the 
Squire. " I am obliged to you all the same, 
old boy, for the money, but I will wait to 
borrow it another time. Mr. Phipps, Sir, I 



294 LUCY AYLMER. 

shall not want your services. I am going to 
take the concern into my own hands." 

Archer ceased his persuasions, and his friend 
Phipps returned to town : and from that day 
there was no love lost from Archer to Cecil 
Erresford. 

Maude and Lucy were beginning to feel 
quite at home at the Castle. The Countess was 
very kind, and she showed her kindness by 
leaving her guests very much to their own 
desires, a far better way than perpetually 
boring people with questions about their plans. 
The Lady Anne's step was rarely heard in the 
galleries, or her face seen in the saloons — her 
poor, the Squire's enemies, the tracts, and 
lastly her ecclesiastical work, occupying nearly 
all her time. A prayer-book with scarlet and 
blue letters, and every page emblazoned, had 
superseded the church- service which Lady 
Anne had laid aside — truth must be told — 
because there was too much of the Bible 
in it. 

Augusta Neville's grand object, now she 
was established at Castle St. Agnes, seemed 
to be setting her cap at Cecil Erresford. It 
would be no bad thing, thought the fair 



LUCY AYLMER. 295 

schemer, to become the Honourable Mrs. 
Erresford and eventually the Countess De 
Walden ! for the present Earl would never 
marry, and on Cecil must devolve both estates 
and title at some future period. The ambi- 
tious Augusta considered herself very fascina- 
ting, and saw no reason to prevent her fasci- 
nations having power over Cecil Erresford. 
The first morning of her sojourn at the Castle, 
she started a riding party, and appeared in 
elegant costume, chose the most spirited horse, 
and was the admiration of the whole party. 
The next evening, she proposed charades, 
taking care to throw herself and Cecil together, 
as the most prominent characters. Another 
frosty morning she arranged a pedestrian 
expedition to Branstone Hills, but grew tired 
before it was half over. Cecil in consequence 
was obliged to give her his arm ; and the weary 
Augusta, by dint of careful manoeuvres, kept 
greatly in the rear of their party, and enjoyed 
three miles delightful tete-a-tete. 

Some days afterwards, Augusta and her 
nieces with Lady Elora sat working together 
in the sunny morning room. Cecil stood by 
the window looking out. 



296 LUCY AYLMER. 

" You surely do not meditate deserting us, 
Mr. Erresford ?" said Augusta. 

" What designs on me have you this 
morning, Miss Neville?" Cecil asked play- 
fully. 

'' Oh ! you must read aloud to us, we have 
set our hearts on it," and Augusta held up 
an unbound book. 

" You should get Glendowan, he is a first- 
rate reader." 

" Lord Glendowan is engaged, he is always 
busy," replied Augusta : "it will not do, we 
take no refusals. Besides I have cut the 
leaves all ready for you, and the book looks 
charming. A poem, I got yesterday at 
Arminster 1" 

"I am a shocking poetry -reader," said 
Cecil smiling. 

*' Oh! I am ashamed of you,- Mr. Erresford, 
such excuses 1" 

Cecil turned round and took up the book. 
" Stay, we must establish you comfortably : 
an easy chair, and a book-rest !" said the un- 
daunted Augusta. 

Cecil uttered a little groan. " Oh, Miss 
Neville, I could not ; my gallantry gives way. 



LUCY AYLMER. 297 

A morning with Tennyson ! it is beyond 
my powers of endiu^ance. I told you I was 
no hand at poetry !" * 

'' Oh, Cecil ! you profess to be fond of 
poetry," said Lady Flora. 

" So I am, but I must understand before I 
can appreciate." 

" My dear, hard-used Tennyson !" said 
Augusta, " try him for once !" she put her 
head on one side, and looked coaxingly up at 
Cecil, who had it on his lips to say, " bother 
the woman !" but he refrained. 

" I protest you are nearly too much for me," 
said Cecil. 

" Aunt Augusta will not be happy without 
your society," said Maude saucily. 

" My dear child !" exclaimed Augusta. 

Just at this moment, Lady Anne came in 
attired in the oldest straw bonnet imaginable, 
and a worsted shawl, procurable at Arminster 
for the sum of four shillings and sixpence. 
The large leather bag on her arm told plainly 
whither she was going ; nevertheless Cecil 
thought proper to enquire. " What is the 
plan for the morning. Queen Anne ?" 

" Ten cottages," was the terse reply. 

o 3 



298 LUCY AYLMER. 

Augusta bit her lip, but Maude laughed 
audibly, then thinking she had been very rude, 
ran oUt of the room. 

" Might I straighten your bonnet, Anne, it 
is dreadfully bent ?" said Lady Mora. 

" N'importe/' replied her Ladyship coldly. 
" I shall see no one but the villagers and Mr. 
Aylmer, and neither one nor the other will 
notice my dress." 

" Oh ! Aylmer professes to be very nice on 
the subject of bonnets," said Cecil, looking 
slyly at Flora. 

Maude vrho had finished her laughter in 
the hall, and would not lose what she called 
' the fun,' came back and resumed her work 
— a kettle holder for Robert, a very droll 
affair with a figure in full canonicals on it. 

Lady Anne sat down to a writing-table, and 
commenced a note. 

"What is in this, Anne?" Cecil asked, 
glancing queerly at the bag lying on a chair 
near him. 

The Lady Anne vouchsafed no reply. Cecil 
looked at the bag, took it up, examined it 
cautiously, then pressing the lock, peeped in ; 
Maude watching him all the time, her face 



LUCY AYLMER. 299 

crimson with suppressed laughter. " What, 
Anne, turned doctor?" Cecil exclaimed, holding 
up a paper, " Receipt for croup," an odd title ! 
" A bunch of full-grown carrots to a quart of 
water — simmer gently — then throw in a hand- 
ful of salt ; and add pepper to the taste — then," 
Cecil was going on, but he was stopped by 
a shout of laughter. 

Lady Mora got up and looked over his 
shoulder. " Cecil, I was sure you were making 
fun of us, it is a receipt for soup not croup J' 

" Then it is the oddest ' S' — I ever saw in 
my life ! and yet I thought the receipt was 
strange, it would be a case of kill, not cure, 
with Anne's patients." Cecil glanced at his 
sister, her countenance was perfectly im- 
movable and she appeared deeply engaged 
with her writing. " Anne is instructing her 
people in the art of wholesome cooking," said 
Cecil. " Let me see what comes next." 

" Pray do not, Cecil," whispered Lady Flora, 
who was too frightened to enjoy her brother's 
fit of nonsense. 

" Oh ! do go on — what comes next ?" said 
the saucy Maude. 

" A bundle of tracts neatly tied up with 



300 LUCY AYLMER. 

red tape — highly proper — labled 'Tracts for 
the Holy seasons/ " Cecil stopped and turned 
them to and fro. 

" Cecil, I will trouble you for my bag ;" the 
Lady Anne had finished her note, and stood 
with it in her hand, looking coldly down, while 
her brother replaced the papers — then she 
sailed from the room in profound silence. 

" There, Cecil, you have made Anne angry," 
said Lady Flora in a distressed tone. 

" If you think so, my dear, I will go after 
her, and make my peace." 

" Oh, the poem !" exclaimed Augusta, but 
Cecil flew out, and there was an end of reading 
for that morning. 

Maude threw down her work and sauntered 
to the window. Cecil had risen several degrees 
in her estimation since this little frolic. 

" Maude, my dear, what are you doing ?" 
and Augusta took up the piece of work Maude 
had just thrown down. 

" Making Robert's likeness, aunt," replied 
Maude carelessly. 

"How dreadfully impertinent you grow, 
child ! AVho designed it, not yourself ?" said 
Miss Neville. 



LUCY AYLMER. 301 

" This is a profound secret," replied Maude, 
" Lu, darling, do come out. I am sick of 
staying in doors." 

" Lucy, my dear, what a silent little crea- 
ture you are ?" exclaimed Augusta. " I posi- 
tively forgot you were here." 

" Nonsense, Auntie ! why Lucy laughed 
with the rest of us. Come along, dearie," 
said Maude. 

Lucy folded up her work and Maude's and 
followed her. A few minutes after, Squire 
Neville put in his head and called his sister, 
and the Lady Flora was left alone. Her hands 
hung hstlessly on her lap, and she began to 
think — of whom ? — of Archer Neville — She 
wondered why she was pleased with his society ; 
longed for him to talk to her ; and yet felt 
slightly agitated when he did so. She had 
never experienced any similar feeling before, 
and she could not understand it. When Lord 
Glendowan was with her, she felt a calm 
indifference ; but when Archer was with her 
how her cheek glovv^ed, and a strange gladness 
stole over her ! It increased day by day, and 
now she thought over it, she was troubled. 
She thought and thought till her cheeks grew 



302 LUCY AYLMER. 

crimson at Archer being so much in her mind. 
She imagined it was not right, and was deter- 
mined to dismiss these new ideas ; and fancy- 
ing she could not do so in soUtude, Lady 
Flora went off to find Lord Glen do wan. 
Instead of his Lordship, the first person she 
encountered was the one she was fiying from. 

" I was seeking you, Lady Flora," he said. 
" There is an extraordinary flight of rooks 
settled on the lower part of the park : Maude 
and Lucy are down there, and quite anxious 
you should join them." 

Flora coloured uncomfortably, and felt con- 
scious that Archer noticed it. " Cannot I see 
them from the window ?" she said in a slightly 
embarrassed tone. 

" Not from the window, they are below the 
elms," he replied. 

" Is it not very cold ?" she asked timidly. 

" No, delightful ! can I find you a shawl ?" 
One lay on a slab near. Flora threw it over 
her head : she imagined it would appear so 
marked if she refused to go with him. 

Archer observed her hesitation and difii- 
dence, and thought exultingly, it was a good 
sign ; for if he were indifierent to her, where- 



LUCY AYLMER. 803 

fore should she fear being with him ? He 
offered her his arm as they descended the 
terrace steps, but she pretended not to hear 
him, and held her shawl with both her hands. 

"Do you drive this afternoon ?" Archer 
asked, thinking it politic to converse on indif- 
ferent subjects. 

"Yes, we go to Sleebury." By 'we,' Lady 
Flora meant herself and Lord Glen do wan. 

" Sleebury is a favourite drive of yours, I 
think ?" 

" We often want things," replied Flora, 
"but we go for the letters to-day." 

" Indeed !" said Archer, " do you expect to 
hear from Lord de Walden ?" 

" No, we heard on Thursday. My brother 
is very well." 

"I am glad you had good news," said 
Archer, in a tone of great interest. " Lord 
Glendowan was talking of a visit to Scotland, I 
think," Archer added, after a moment's silence. 

" Yes 1 his youngest sister is very ill ; and 
if he receives worse accounts at Sleebury, he 
will start at once." 

" Is she Lady Damer ?" Archer enquired. 

" Yes ! you have met her, have Vou not ?" 



304 LUCY ATLMER. 

" I had the pleasure of being introduced 
to Lady Darner at a botanical fete,'' Archer 
replied. 

" This summer, I think, when she stayed 
with the Tyrells ? The Damers and Tyrells are 
connected," said Lady Flora, feeling more at 
her ease. 

" I believe so," he replied, but he did not 
seem to like the subject. 

Lady Mora, however, persisted in it: " Cecil 
was telling me yesterday that Sir Edgar 
Tyrell is Mr. Aylmer's uncle." 

" The late Mr. Aylmer's half-brother," re- 
plied Archer. 

" He partly adopted Mr. Aylmer once, I 
believe," continued Flora, " and Cecil seems 
to think as they have no children, Sir Edgar 
may leave his property to Mr. Aylmer and his 
sister." 

Archer looked slightly discomposed, only 
very slightly ; but the change of expression 
disappeared in a moment, as he said, " Mr. 
Erresford thinks so." 

" Do you know anything of Mr. Aylmer's 
sister?" Flora asked. 

" Very liftle ; she left here when almost a 



LUCY AYLMER. 305 

child. Lieutenant St. John has just got his 
company, I believe." 

" Yes ! I saw his promotion in the paper. 
I am very glad, for Cecil thinks they are 
extremely poor." 

" They will do very well now," said Archer. 
Just then Flora sHpped : they were walking 
fast. Archer put out his hand, but it was 
not needed. Flora recovered her footing 
instantly. "Will you take my arm?" he 
asked. 

" Thank you, I must hold up my dress, it 
is so long, it nearly throws jne down," replied 
Flora nervously : she would not have been seen 
walking arm in arm with Archer, on any 
account. What might Lord Glendowan think ? 
And now when his favoiu-ite sister was ill, to 
vex him, would be cruel. Lady Flora would 
have learned to love Lord Glendowan only 
Archer came between. 

The ground was quite black with rooks in 
the lower part of the park. Lady Flora and 
Archer stood still and watched them ; Maude 
and Lucy had gone away to find their father. 
Flora was very silent for some time, and then 



306 LUCY AYLMER. 

she said ; " I wish I were versed in Natural 
History." 

" I should imagine it an interesting, but 
troublesome study," Archer replied. 

" Look, they are holding a parhament," 
exclaimed Flora. " I do really believe animals 
can converse with each other, as well as 
men." 

" I have no doubt of it," said Archer : he 
had a way of agreeing with Mora. 

" Animal existence would be so dreary, if it 
were not so," said Flora dreamily. 

" Yes ! what does man become without 
intercourse with his fellow man, but a mere 
savage," replied Archer. 

" Only fancy being cast on a desert island," 
observed Lady Flora, overcoming her reserve 
with Archer. 

" I do not like to fancy it," replied Archer. 

" A few people together would not be so 
bad, but one alone — oh ! it must be so dread- 
ful," continued Lady Flora. 

" I am a gregarious animal, solitude does 
not suit me," said Archer. 

" I like a certain kind of solitude," rejoined 



LUCY AYLMER. 307 

Lady Flora, " a solitude sought by one's own 
self, when the world deals hardly with us. 
Solitude in that case is a friend, not a foe," 
Flora sighed. 

" The Lady Flora has had no experience of 
that kind of solitude," observed Archer, 
" it must be a strange world that could go 
hardly with her I" 

" This is a strange world," murmured Flora. 
''It is hke a puppet-show, which sometimes 
passes before us bad pictures, and sometimes 
good ones." 

"Let us hope the best turn up the most 
often," replied Archer. 

" I wish it were so ; but misery certainly 
turns up oftener than happiness. In this 
world evil preponderates over the good ; but 
some people would tell me I am misan- 
thropic." 

" It would be no bad plan," said Archer, 
" to make an evening's amusement out of this 
subject. Let each of our party write a concise 
article expressing their peculiar opinion on the 
preponderance of happiness or misery. What 
think you. Lady Flora ?" 



308 LUCY ATLMER. 

" Mine would be such a lugubrious paper," 
replied Mora sadly : " I have so often con- 
structed pictures sorrowful and desolate- 
looking; not the sunny landscape, all glad 
and smiling — but the sky dark with rain and 
thunder clouds." 

" Your lot should be unchequered by one 
single rain-drop, or tiny cloudlet. A perpetual 
sunshine should hang over you !" he said 
this in such an impassioned tone, that Lady 
Flora felt a thrill accompany the words. 
Archer longed to have added, how devoutly 
he wished it were his lot to bring the sun- 
shine o'er her path ; but he felt this would be 
premature. 

That evening, the party at the Castle were 
assembled in the drawing-room. The question 
arose, what should they do ? Music and 
charades had amused them several successive 
nights — then was suddenly proposed the plan 
of the essays — it was quite a new idea, and 
the Countess highly approved of it. Pencils 
and paper were sent for, and half an hour 
given to each for their task : the subjects 
being Happiness or Misery. The Countess was 



LUCY AYLMER. 309 

to time them ; and, moreover, her ladyship 
promised to award a prize to the most suc- 
cessful. 

Robert Aylmer was of the party, and Lord 
Glendowan had not left. Better news had 
awaited him at Sleebury. Every one was to 
write but the Countess, who would be the 
arbitrator. Even the Squire had a pencil and 
paper given him, but his essay did not appear 
to make great way — his amusement seemed to 
be watching the rest. There was an universal 
silence, that seemed to weary Maude, and she 
was relieved when the Countess pronounced 
the half hour expired, and called in the papers. 
There were ten, and the Conntess read them 
as they were sent in turn round the table. 

Augusta's came first. It was rather a long 
affair, and not very much to the purpose : a 
little afifectation, and many quotations, and 
very little of either happiness or misery in it. 
Cecil's was characteristic of himself, beautiful 
in sentiment — clear in expression. The happy 
ones of the earth triumphed — everybody 
thought it would be the best paper. Maude's 
was very short, clever, but containing a great 



310 LUCY AYLMER. 

deal of nonsense. Robert's followed ; it was 
too like his sermons, too prosy to be good ; 
besides it was not half finished, and con- 
sequently his judgment did not appear. 
Lady Flora's was triste and melancholy, 
embodying the sentiments of the morning. 
Lord Glendowan's was a preface to something 
great, not developed. Archer had endeavoured 
to improvise some poetry, rather sentimental, 
which made Mora blush, but his views were 
not clear. Lady Anne's paper was high- 
flown and high-church, like a leaf from one 
of her tracts. There were suppressed smiles 
when it was read. 

The Squire had been occupying himself 
mischievously the half hour, in cariacaturing 
the whole assembled party, himself included. 
He called it " a dish of learned ones !" this 
sent the whole party into shouts of laughter. 
It was some time before they were composed 
again ; and then the Countess in a kind tone 
of encouragement, asked Lucy for her com- 
position. Augusta leant back in her chair 
and whispered for Cecil's ear, "I wonder 
what that child has been writing ?" 



LUCY AYLMER. 31] 

" Something good, I have no doubt/' was 
Cecil's cold reply. 

The Countess read in her clear liquid 
tones as follows — " An enquiry after Hap- 
piness." 

" I went out at sunrise into a flower-garden. 
The early dew was on the grass, soft and 
shining like brilliants — and it hung veil-Hke 
about the opening flowers and on the hedges, 
where it wove glittering garlands and con- 
nected with a sparkling chain the deUcate 
webs of the spider. A peacock with gorgeous 
plumage sunned himself on the stone balus- 
trade ; and on the clear surface of a tiny lake, 
floated two stately swans ; bees hummed 
from flower to flower, collecting their delicious 
spoils, and on the bud and stem danced the 
butterfly — the gay — the beautiful; and the 
sunshine flooded with its golden glory the 
httle scene. Then I spoke, and thus addressed 
the flowers. * Oh, beauteous rose 1 oh gentle 
lilly ! and you, ye sister flowerets, wherefore 
are ye happy ?' and with one voice they re- 
plied — * Happiness is part of our existence — 
without it we should die — it comes to us in 
the sunny morn, and stays with us in the dewy 



312 LUCY AYLMER. 

night — we were created beautiful, and our 
beauty is to diffuse happiness on man '/ 

"So I took myself from the beauteous gar- 
den, and hied off to the stilly woods. The 
shadows fell aslant the grass, and formed 
patterns in the sunlight, which gently hid 
itself among them ; and high up in the lofty 
boughs did the tiny birds warble and sing in 
music that made my heart leap for joy — and 
I cried ' sweet songsters of the woods, of 
what do your notes tell ?' A chorus replied, 
' We tell of our Creator's goodness in adding 
melody to ^Jhe happiness of man.' Then I, 
too, sang a song of praise. Trom thence I 
descended into the valley and sought the 
abode of man. A brooklet murmured through 
the glen, and from it a maiden filled her 
pitcher ; then bearing it aloft on her head, 
would have moved away, but I lifted my voice 
and said : ' Stay maiden, and tell me the 
feeling of thy heart.' Then her face grew 
smiling and she replied : ' My heart feels 
more glad than I can express ?' and I asked, 
' Wherefore — art thou rich ?' A silvery laugh 
reached my ears, and her answer to me was, 
' are riches happiness ?' Then said I, " Thou 



LUCY AYLMER. 313 

speakest right — art thou then learned?' 'Even 
so/ the maiden answered * learned in the 
arts to make my home happy !' she smiled on 
me and was gone. And as I stood silent and 
still, an aged man passed me by, and I said : 
* Pause awhile, oh, venerable stranger ! Tell 
me, can'st thou find happiness on earth ?' 
He stayed and leant him on his staff — his 
form was bent, and his eyes were dim — and 
methought here was misery 1 but he gave an- 
swer unto me : ' My happiness on earth is great, 
for it is found in looking unto Heaven !' He 
moved on his way, his step was f3eble, but he 
gazed upwards. And I, too, turned mine 
eyes towards the heavens ; a pure blue spread 
across them, and the sun lighted up a knot of 
showy clouds and methought, if earth were 
so sweet, what must glory be ! Then I lay 
down on a bank and slept ; and as I slept, 
I dreamed an angel's wings passed o'er me, 
and the crystal tones of an angel's voice whis- 
pered in mine ear : ' Blessed are they that do 
His commandments, that they may have a 
right to the tree of life, and may enter in 
through the gates into the city.' Then I 
awoke, and happiness encircled the earth like 

VOL. I. p 



314 LUCY AYLMER. 

a crown ; and behold ! sorrow was not, for the 
Shepherd King watched over us/' 

The Countess ceased, there was a moment's 
silence, and then she rose, and unclasping a 
costly bracelet, fastened it on Lucy's arm, then 
kissing her fair brow, looked round and said : 
" Have I universal approval ?" There was 
but one voice, all approved ; then Cecil said : 

" We must crown our queen." And he 
and Lady Elora fetched fair flowers from the 
conservatory, and wove Lucy a crown. 

That was a bright evening. Lucy had 
made every one glad. They talked of hap- 
piness, sang songs of happiness, formed plans 
of happiness. 

Happiness ! — to which of that group did it 
show its bright countenance, and o'er which 
did shadows steal ? Patience ! this like other 
events will show itself as time rolls on. 



END OF VOL I. 



LONDON : 

Printed by Schulze and Co., 13, Poland Street. 









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